Paul Verhoeven

By Andrew O'Hehir

By Salon Staff
Published August 4, 2000 7:41PM (EDT)

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Thank you, Salon and Andrew O'Hehir, for the excellent article about Paul Verhoeven. It is unquestionable that he is the most misunderstood director working today. As far as I am concerned, he has never made a bad film, and yes, for me this includes "Showgirls." Though I had seen most of his American films before it, "Showgirls" is the film that inspired my obsession with Verhoeven. While it's true that Verhoeven denies the film is a comedy or satire, I feel it is undeniable that the film is a criticism, as well as a perfectly toned melodrama in the tradition of Douglas Sirk, which can often be read as serious and funny simultaneously. Unfortunately there isn't much of an audience for it, and most critics would rather save their praise for unthinking, ineffectual crap like Merchant-Ivory or "The English Patient." Like most great artists, Verhoeven is way ahead of his time.

-- Jack Pretzer

I was absolutely astounded that in Andrew O'Hehir's otherwise excellent article on Paul Verhoeven, there was no mention of Verhoeven's 1985 film "Flesh and Blood," sometimes known by the much less descriptive title "The Rose and Sword."

It's difficult to watch this exploitative film without feeling that the psychological lesson to be drawn from it is that women don't really mind being raped, or at worst, it's something they can get over as long as their rapist has enough charm; and that women are fundamentally treacherous, forever plotting against virile, straightforward men like Rutger Hauer's character.

Anyone familiar with Verhoeven's Hollywood output will recognize this distrust of women. And from the trailers for "Hollow Man," I suspect we will see him once again use rape as a plot device, focusing the viewer's attention on the damaged psychology of the rapist, and not on the victim, as he did with the sexually abusive character played by Michael Douglas in "Basic Instinct."

While I commend O'Hehir for his insightful article on Verhoeven, and was pleased to see a critic finally recognize the artistry of Verhoeven's films, I consider it evasive and critically irresponsible to skirt the misogyny issue so thoroughly. Verhoeven's films are complex, and worthy of critical analysis, but they should be addressed honestly, without shirking their unpleasant sexist under- and overtones.

-- Pat Harrigan

Salon Staff

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