August 23 – September 6

SHOCK TROOPS: THE FILMS OF PAUL VERHOEVEN

Sex and violence… and giant alien bugs. The career of Dutch director Paul Verhoeven (1938-) has been nothing if not controversial. The director, whose view of the world was shaped by the Nazi occupation he witnessed as a young boy, attained critical success with his second feature, Turkish Delight. Verhoeven soon turned to the examination of sexuality and cruelty he would become infamous for. His 1980 feature Spetters was picketed for its representation of homosexuality, but it is 1983’s The 4th Man and 1985’s Flesh+Blood which begin the director’s sometimes inscrutable dance between lowbrow plots and high-minded, even pretentious themes. This is certainly true of the box-office juggernauts he would make after relocating to Hollywood in the mid-1980s.

Films such as RoboCop, Total Recall and Basic Instinct are exercises in genre that weave in social and political messages at the level of action, titillation and suspense. Yet even Verhoeven’s apologists would go on to wonder at the director’s refusal to clearly mark the forking paths between narrative form and intellectual content in misunderstood satires such as the sordid Showgirls and the “fascist” camp of Starship Troopers (his masterpiece according to many Verhoeven aficionados). In the mid-2000s, Verhoeven made a triumphant return to the Netherlands with Black Book and currently seems intent on remaking himself once more as a European auteur.

This season profiles the career highlights of one of the most controversial, mercurial, iconoclastic and misunderstood contemporary directors, concluding with his most recent film, the widely celebrated Elle, a divisive rape thriller that no one in Hollywood would take on.

August 23

7:00pm STARSHIP TROOPERS
Paul Verhoeven (1997) 129 mins MA

Reviled by many upon release as an exercise in “fascist camp,” this incendiary satiric masterpiece based on Robert A. Heinlein’s 1959 novel now seems like the defining film of the Fox News era. Verhoeven fuses a complex reverence for the codes of Western pop genres with a caustic examination of the self-deluding myths of US imperialism, rendered in terms that offer a thrilling riposte to today’s more formally and politically conservative blockbusters. A masterfully sustained work of “deep dive” satire, equal parts Roy Lichtenstein and Leni Riefenstahl, media semiotics and money shots – and thunderously entertaining to boot.

35mm print courtesy of the National Film & Sound Archive, Australia.

CTEQ ANNOTATION:
Starship Troopers and Plato’s Republic: The Pop Philosophy of Paul Verhoeven by Dan Shaw

TRAILER:


9:20pm ROBOCOP
Paul Verhoeven (1987) 102 mins M

Verhoeven’s second major international film after the Spanish-Dutch-US co-production Flesh+Blood is a thinly veiled satire depicting the future corporatisation of politics and the militarisation of law enforcement. The film drew inspiration from the Judge Dredd comic-book character and was produced from an original screenplay co-written by Edward Neumeier who would later go on to adapt Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. Verhoeven’s breakthrough commercial film stars Nancy Allen, Dan O’Herlihy and Peter Weller as the cyborg cop haunted by his residual humanity.

35mm print courtesy of the National Film & Sound Archive, Australia.

CTEQ ANNOTATION:
Fascism for Liberals: RoboCopinc by Christian McCrea

TRAILER:

August 30

7:00pm FLESH+BLOOD
Paul Verhoeven (1985) 126 mins R

Set in early 16th century Italy, Verhoeven’s first English-language film is a morally ambivalent co-production bathed in brutality and deceit. Featuring a glorious Rutger Hauer as a barbaric mercenary set on vengeance, and shot in Spain by regular cinematographer Jan de Bont, Verhoeven’s opus is marked by a potently lurid sensibility, strikingly vivid violence and a profound sense of chaos. Written with longtime co-writer Gerard Soeteman, this breakthrough film provoked and challenged audiences on its release. With Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Burlinson and Jack Thompson.

CTEQ ANNOTATION:
Hauer’d to be a God: Flesh + Blood by Luke Goodsell

Trailer:


9:15pm BASIC INSTINCT
Paul Verhoeven (1992) 108 mins R

Working off a script by Joe Eszterhas (who’d later birth Showgirls), Verhoeven’s brashly excessive mise en scène pushes the clichés of this erotic thriller’s narrative to the point of transcendence. Referencing everything from Hitchcock to Bart Simpson, the film even employs Persona-esque personality melding as a San Franciscan detective (Michael Douglas) investigating the murder of a retired rock star shifts his suspicion between a police psychologist (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and a seductive crime novelist (Sharon Stone). Hugely successful, this film would earn Verhoeven a reputation as Hollywood’s prime provocateur. With Dorothy Malone.

35mm print courtesy of the National Film & Sound Archive, Australia.

CTEQ ANNOTATION:
Cinema as Sex on Cocaine: Basic Instinct by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZc7uAUa38Q

September 6

7:00pm BLACK BOOK
Paul Verhoeven (2006) 145 mins MA

Verhoeven’s belated return to Dutch filmmaking is both a full-bore World War II action-thriller and a morally ambiguous revisionist history lesson. Carice van Houten (Game of Thrones) plays, with charismatic gusto, the central role of a Jewish chanteuse hired to use her wiles to infiltrate the German command in The Hague. The director’s typically uninhibited approach to sex and violence leaves no parties untarnished by ethical ambivalence. The Dutch rewarded this partial attack on themselves with box-office success and multiple awards.

CTEQ ANNOTATION:
Zwartboek by Martyn Bamber

Trailer:


9:35pm ELLE
Paul Verhoeven (2016) 130 mins MA

This daring and provocative comedy-thriller portrays a woman’s unpredictable and eccentric reaction to being raped in her home by a masked assailant. Verhoeven’s latest film subverts all expectations of what a rape-revenge thriller should be, touching on themes of sadomasochism, gender relations, voyeurism and adultery with a playful and blackly comic tone. From whodunit mystery to twisted game, the film is full of unconventional desires, unlikely affairs and inappropriate behaviour, oscillating between perverse horror and wry humour. Isabelle Huppert’s fearless and densely quixotic performance is amongst the greatest of her career.

CTEQ ANNOTATION:
Jerking Off the Universe: (Isabelle Huppert and) Paul Verhoeven’s Elle by Annabel Brady-Brown

Trailer:

7 February
OPENING NIGHT 2024

7 February – 21 February
FROM THE BOULEVARDS OF PARIS TO THE DOCKS OF CHERBOURG: LANDMARKS OF THE FRENCH FILM MUSICAL

28 February – 13 March
"LIVING MAY BE TRAGIC, BUT LIFE ISN'T": THE FILMS OF THE TAVIANI BROTHERS

20 March – 3 April
IN THE AFTERGLOW: THE MERCURIAL STARDOM OF GLORIA GRAHAME

Wednesday 10 April
MAN OF THE CINEMA: A TRIBUTE TO JOHN FLAUS AT 90

17 April – 1 May
KEEP ROLLING: ANN HUI'S COUNTER-CINEMA

8 May – 22 May
"ALL ART IS ONE": THE VISIONARY CINEMA OF MICHAEL POWELL AND EMERIC PRESSBURGER

29 May – 12 June
WRITING WITH HER EYES: SUSO CECCHI D'AMICO, SCREENWRITER AS OBSERVER

19 June – 3 July
THE HOUSE THAT MOHSEN BUILT: THE FILMS OF SAMIRA MAKHMALBAF, MARZIEH MESHKINI AND MOHSEN MAKHMALBAF

10 July – 24 July
THE PAIN OF LIVING: JEAN EUSTACHE, BEING CINEMA

Wednesday 31 July
BETWEEN THE WAVE AND REVOLUTION: THE RETURN OF RIVETTE’S LEGENDARY L’AMOUR FOU

4–18 September
BLIND BEASTS, RED ANGELS AND HOODLUM SOLDIERS: THE IRRESISTIBLE CINEMA OF YASUZO MASUMURA

25 September – 9 October
JIŘÍ MENZEL: MAKING COMEDIES IS NO FUN

16–23 October
OF MEN AND MONSTERS: THE CINEMA OF NIKOS KOUNDOUROS

Wednesday 30 October
CONTESTED HISTORIES: THE DOCUMENTARIES OF JENI THORNLEY

6–20 November
THE FIRST AND LAST OF ENGLAND: THE QUEER LEGACIES OF DEREK JARMAN

Wednesday 27 November
PARADING THE PAST: RECENT ERNST LUBITSCH RESTORATIONS

4–11 December
THE SEEDS OF CHANGE: THE DOCUMENTARIES OF TOM ZUBRYCKI

Wednesday 18 December
CARLTON AND BEYOND: THE MELBOURNE UNIVERSITY FILM SOCIETY IN THE 1960s