Jan 14, 2015


Although I saw Paul Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct (1992) as a tiny tot and vividly remember the (in)famous scene in the film where the Sapphic femme fatale played by Sharon Stone spreads her legs in a rather provocative fashion, I never thought of the Dutch, especially rather rotund and goofy Dutchmen, as being masters of dark erotic thrillers, but I change my mind the more I dig into the relatively eclectic oeuvre of the late and sometimes great auteur Theo van Gogh (1-900, Blind Date). While I have been engaged in a sort of unofficial van Gogh marathon for the past week or so, I must admit that I recently decided to watch the director’s eccentric erotic thriller Loos (1989) aka No Potatoes aka Wild because I am an ass man and could not resist watching the film after seeing its poster art, which features a pair of long legs and a reasonably large unclad derriere. Luckily, van Gogh’s film is not merely a soft core flick disguised as a conventional thriller, but an absurdist S&M-tinged ‘arthouse’ thriller contained within a wayward world that falls somewhere between Lynchian and Anderssonian, but is decidedly Dutch in its curious cynicism and almost psychopathically dark humor. Notably, van Gogh stated in a 2004 issue of Esquire Magazine regarding his personal taste in cinema: “In the top 25 of DVD’s one has to have, there will always be at least two parts of THE GODFATHER, something by Kubrick, something by Woody Allen. And I know that those gentlemen are great filmmakers in their own way, who as the cliche indicates: 'can’t be ignored.' I don’t like war films; neither do I like fighting films. I fell asleep while I watched KILL BILL. I don’t care about nature films, films about music don’t attract me, not even THE SOUND OF MUSIC, and porn makes me yawn. Even worse are seriously intended science fiction films, except ALIEN. A disgrace, yes, but we have to face the bitter truth; I am more attracted to films in which people talk to each other, instead of people beating each other up or shooting at one another, with raping, kidnapping, or both. Not because I am a coward, I think, but because I grew up with the idea that there doesn’t exist a more exciting adventure than the fight between two people that is called ‘love’.” Indeed, van Gogh's  Loos may be a borderline deranged erotic thriller featuring Jap tranny weirdos running around in campy clothing, naked morbidly obese women bound to poles, gritty snuff film footage, foul-mouthed little blonde girls who hate their fathers, sadomasochistic prostitutes who like to be walked around on dog leashes, homo-queen bartenders with sassy mouths, and a guy having a nail hammered through his foreskin and into a piano by a blind cripple, but the film is also about “the fight between two people that is called ‘love’,” and it is quite a dark, loony, and labyrinthine one that demonstrates the superlatively self-destructive lengths that men will go for the women they love. A work that was advertised by describing auteur van Gogh as the “Fassbinder of the Low Countries” (notably, van Gogh’s comrade Edwin Brienen would later be described as the “Dutch Fassbinder”), Loos is the story of an eponymous lawyer who finds himself a forsaken slave of a sort of Dutch Sodom known as the Rotterdam underworld where he is coerced into defending a purported ‘sex-murderer’ and falls in love with a dangerously whimsical sadomasochistic coke-addled prostitute that is in some way connected to his scumbag client. Unquestionably, Loos makes Basic Instinct seem like hokey and hopelessly banal Hollywoodized neo-noir barf by comparison. 

 Loos opens with a hot Aryan blonde seductively asking some nameless/faceless person, “Can I undress for you? Can I kneel for you?” and said nameless/faceless person hatefully replying by stating, “You fucking white slut!” following her into a closet, and strangling her to death with a rather flamboyant multi-colored handkerchief that looks like it would be owned by a sassy old Afro-American lady. The woman that was strangled to death is a 26-year-old saleslady named Marlies Benninkmeijer (Heleen Hummelen) and judging by the fact that her killer/sex partner called her a “fucking white slut” before snuffing her out, one would assume the murderer is not a native white Dutchman, but a savage untermensch of some sort. A rather ugly man with a mustache that looks more like he is from Southern Italy named Harry Wery (played by actor/journalist Max Pam)—a proud pervert that owns an S&M-themed strip club called Showcase—is charged and arrested for the murder and he naturally wants Rotterdam’s best lawyer, Tommie Loos (van Gogh regular Tom Jansen), to defend him. When weasel Wery sends his rather gaunt and goofy yet sinister righthand man De Vries (van Gogh regular Cas Enklaar of the underrated masterpiece A Day at the Beach (1984)) to meet with Loos, he refuses to represent the club owner as he is tired of doing “rapist and sex-murderer” cases as he feels “too old for it” and he does want his young daughter thinking he defends bad guys. Unfortunately, Loos’ daughter Angelique does not think much of him and yells “Daddy, you’re an asshole!” when he goes to pick her up at a pool. Indeed, Loos’ ex-wife hates him and has brainwashed their daughter Angelique to think he is “not a real man.” Unbeknownst to Loos, another member of the ‘fairer sex’ will also question his manhood, albeit in a fashion that he will soon come to find delight in. 

 While hanging out at a fancy pseudo-futuristic bar, Loos is approached by a wanton woman named Anna Montijn (van Gogh regular Renée Fokker of Blind Date (1996) and Baby Blue (2001)) who kisses the lawyer and then takes him to a ritzy hotel where she jumps his bones. When Loos wakes up the next morning after experiencing the best sex of his life, he finds both Anna and his keys gone. When Loos talks to the front desk attendant, he learns that Anna’s room was paid for by someone named “Rubico in Brussels.” On top of finding nothing about the whereabouts of Anna or his keys, Loos suffers the distinct humiliation of standing around a group of exceedingly effete Japanese men in drag complaining that, “All dildos are taken.” When Loos goes back to his house, he finds De Vries, who has clearly gotten the attorney’s keys from Anna, sitting at his desk wearing a child’s chicken beak mask on his face. After proclaiming, “The blackmailer called to say that the pictures are ready,” De Vries shows him sadomasochistic footage of a woman driving her high heel into Anna’s throat. After that, Loos finally decides it's probably a good time to visit Wery in jail where he learns that the murder victim used to work for the strip club owner. Needless to say, after Wery threatens his daughter, among other things, Loos reluctantly decides to represent him, even though he seems to believe that his client killed Marlies. That night, Loos goes to Wery’s club Showtime where a celebration is being held for a crippled ‘star’ named Nicolette’s 31st birthday. On top of the birthday girl receiving the gift of being allowed to hammer a nail through some poor dude’s foreskin in a Schramm-esque fashion in a seemingly unsimulated scene of genital mutilation, Loos witnesses morbidly unclad morbidly obese woman tied up in chains and a flaming fag bartender who is chained to the bar. The fag bartender reveals to Loos that the police never bothered to come by and investigate Showtime Club after the sex-murder, so the lawyer decides to get in contact with his cop friend. 

 If Loos has anything even remotely resembling a real friend, it is a old troll-like cop named Dorrius (Leen Jongewaard) with whom he demonstrates some sense of solidarity as the two take a leak next to each other in a communal urinal wherein he describes how much he wishes his ex-wife would croak. Dorrius is convinced Wery is the killer and he demonstrates to Loos why by showing him a quasi-snuff film shot by the club owner featuring an unclad woman bound to a bed being cut up with a butcher knife. Dorrius also gives Loos the keys to Wery’s home where he discovers a snuff film and and Polaroids of the club owner, the dead chick, and a large negro. Loos soon learns that the large negro is named Frank Benninkmeijer (Edgar Cairo) and he is the widowed husband of dead girl Marlies. Loos goes to question Frank at a gym, but when he makes a joke about the sizable spade being a pedophile, he is physically assaulted and does not get any of the answers he is looking for. Upon talking to Dorrius, Loos learns that Frank has an alibi as he was “swinging from trees of the gym” during the day of the murder and “20 apes can confirm it.” Dorrius is rather confused about the fact that Loos wants to defend a scumbag like Wery and asks him if he would even defend Klaus Barbie, to which he stoically replies, “that’s what lawyers are for.” 

 Of course, Loos continues looking for his mysterious ladylove Anna and when he goes back to the same bar he originally met her at, a super tall blond begins reaming him in the ass, as if raping him with a giant strap-on dildo. After opting to sleep with a third rate prostitute, Loos is summoned by Anna via taxi. Upon arriving at the hotel room where Loos is staying, he finds his object of desire standing naked on a large box-shaped purse which her feet have been strapped to. After yelling at Anna for stealing his keys and stealing a vial of cocaine that she has hanging from a necklace around her neck, Loos decides to take a stroll at a degenerate ‘modern art’ museum where he is assaulted by visions of large black-and-white Robert Mapplethorpe pictures featuring rather nasty naked obese women and a woman sporting futuristic bondage and strap-ons, among other things. The next day, Loos goes back to see Anna and discovers she is still standing naked on her pursue, so he forces her off and manhandles her, thus ushering in the beginning of their tragic romance. Anna asks Loos if he loves her and he replies by saying, “I never loved a woman that cheated on me.” When Loos takes Anna out to a fancy dinner, he manages to give her a spontaneous orgasm by telling her that he would like to “buy” her and wrap up her body so that no one could ever see it again. After their unconventionally decadent dinner date, Loos takes Anna back to his place where she tries to coerce him into snorting coke, but he proudly proclaims “a healthy mind in a healthy body” and opts out. When Loos intentionally sneezes on Anna’s coke, the little lecherous lady goes berserk, begins beating her beau, and forces him to snort a line. When Loos later asks Anna, “Will you stay with me, always?” the majorly masochistic prostitute becomes exceedingly enraged and forces the lawyer to walk her around Rotterdam on a leash. Upon arriving at a subway station, Loos locks Anna to a vent and tells her he will come back in a couple hours to get her, but when he does, she is gone. From there, things get even more bizarre for the eponymous protagonist and Loos does not exactly conclude on a happy note. 

 After watching Loos, I find it hard to believe that it was not a huge influence on Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct, which may have been penned by Hungarian-American screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, but certainly shares a lot with Loos in terms of tone as a subversive neo-noir with sadistic sapphic femme fatales. Notably, Verhoeven fought Eszterhas over including a lesbian love scene in Basic Instinct, thus that he might have taken influence from van Gogh’s film, which in terms of innate transgressiveness, makes the Sharon Stone flick seem like superficially stylized fluff that was specially tailored by a European arthouse fag to make Americans feel somehow chic and cultivated. Somewhat ironically, van Gogh filled the vacuum that Verhoeven left when he moved to Hollywood. Of course, right from the get go with his directorial debut Lüger (1982) starring popular Dutch actor Thom Hoffman as a suave fascist psychopath, van Gogh demonstrated that he was a more incendiary, iconoclastic, and insanely idiosyncratic filmmaker than Verhoeven and with Loos, the auteur proved that one could produce mainstream works that are just as demented as the most avant-garde of avant-gardist works. Indeed, van Gogh’s erotic thriller is like a more rampantly heterosexual version of the underrated Belgian-Dutch-French coproduction Mascara (1987) directed by Patrick Conrad and starring Charlotte Rampling were it directed by the more jovial and goofy brood of Dutch experimental filmmaker Frans Zwartjes (Visual Training, Pentimento) and R.W. Fassbinder. Like with the more socially vicious and brutal works of Fassbinder, Loos depicts love at its most deleterious and lethally masochistic and people at their most pathologically pernicious, but like virtually all of his films (aside from, ironically, Submission (2004), which was the work that got him killed), van Gogh depicts these unsavory things with a sharp smirk. Flagrantly politically incorrect with negroes being referenced as ‘Zulus’ and carpet-munchers being depicted as the coldest and most ruthless yet strangely passionate of killers, Loos is ultimately proof that, in the right hands, a film from one of the most cliche-ridden and self-conscious of film genres (i.e. film noir) can be turned into something that not only borders on the avant-garde, but is also endlessly enthralling.

-Ty E

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