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Paul Verhoeven and Benedetta

Paul Verhoeven and Virginie Efira on the set of Benedetta (2021)

At eighty-three, Paul Verhoeven has begun work on his eighteenth feature. Young Sinner, a political thriller set in Washington, D.C., will reunite the director with screenwriter Edward Neumeier, with whom he wrote RoboCop (1987) and Starship Troopers (1997). “Our heroine, a young staffer who works for a powerful senator, is drawn into a web of international intrigue and danger, and of course there is also a little sex,” Neumeier tells MovieMaker’s Caleb Hammond. “We have been consulting with a former intelligence officer, Ron Marks, who is trying to keep us real about Capitol Hill and the spy business, but satire always seems to emerge when Paul and I work together, so I expect our new adventure will have a light tone.”

Talking to Jane Hu in the New Yorker, Verhoeven emphasizes that Young Sinner “should have the lightness of North by Northwest.” Since the premiere in Cannes this summer of Benedetta, critics have naturally focused on the two motifs running like electric current throughout the oeuvre, sex and spirituality—diametrically opposed for some, inextricable for Verhoeven—but also on his penchant for ambiguity and Hitchcock. “I have been building my visuals by looking at Alfred Hitchcock, Ingmar Bergman, and Sergei Eisenstein movies,” Verhoeven tells Hammond. “I have studied these movies forever, and I’m still studying them. It’s not too difficult to see that Basic Instinct is heavily influenced by Hitchcock’s Vertigo.

In the run-up to Benedetta’s arrival in the U.S. this past weekend, New York’s IFC Center presented a series of twelve films, sampling from the three phases of Verhoeven’s career. The standout of the six features he made in the Netherlands is Turkish Delight (1973), which Dana Linssen and MUBI Podcast host Rico Gagliano revisited this summer in order to explain how and why it took the country “by storm.”

Verhoeven spent the 1980s and ’90s in Hollywood, where he made his biggest hit yet, Basic Instinct (1992). “Despite the polarizing responses that Basic Instinct continues to generate—regressive auteur-driven misogyny or well-wrought homage to Hitchcock’s blondes?—its extended glimpses of flesh are underpinned by a surprising amount of auteurist self-restraint and ambiguity,” writes Sarah Fonseca in Reverse Shot’s current symposium on objects in the movies. Fonseca zooms in on the ice pick. “In the end,” she writes, “Basic Instinct leaves it up to the viewer to determine guilt, innocence, and the fate of its lovers.”

The IFC Center series had Ayanna Dozier take another look at Showgirls (1995) for Screen Slate. “Beat by beat,” she writes, “the plot can best be described as All About Eve: Vegas edition.” Screen Slate’s Cosmo Bjorkenheim revisited the film that launched the third phase, the movies made in Europe for less money and with longer breaks between releases. In Black Book (2006), in which Carice van Houten plays a Jewish woman who joins the Dutch resistance during the Second World War, Verhoeven examines “the trouble with idealistic commitments,” writes Bjorkenheim.

Anyone looking for a refresher on the oeuvre has two fresh and very fine options. Slant has revised its annotated rankings, ranging from Verhoeven’s first feature, Business Is Business (1971), which introduced “a favorite set of progressive themes and a flair for instilling even small moments with a swaggering, ramshackle kineticism,” as Jaime N. Christley writes in the introduction, to Benedetta, which comes in at #10. The second option is Nicolas Rapold’s splendid hourlong conversation with Margaret Barton-Fumo, the editor of Paul Verhoeven: Interviews, and Adam Nayman, the author of It Doesn’t Suck: Showgirls.

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