Feb 11, 2015

Suzy Q

With such a moronically cutesy and philistine chic girly title, one would think that the fairly celebrated and multiple-award-winning made-for-TV film Suzy Q (1999) directed by prolific Dutch auteur Martin Koolhoven (AmnesiA, Oorlogswinter aka Winter in Wartime) was the Dutch equivalent of Amélie (2001) or some other superlatively silly feel-good celluloid bullshit that makes hot young women seem like gigantic toddlers and brings credence to Schopenhauer’s remark that members of the fairer sex suffer from being, “big children their whole life long.” While the film does feature a cute eponymous girl played by Dutch diva Carice van Houten in a breakout role that would ultimately earn her a Golden Calf (the Dutch equivalent of an Oscar) and jumpstart her fairly successful career, Koolhoven’s coming-of-age-cum-(anti)family-sitcom is about as feel-good as a drunken colonoscopy or receiving a herpes-ridden blowjob from a buck-toothed negro tranny. Deriving its title from both the name of the teenage protagonist and her mindless fan-girl love of Mick Jagger (The Rolling Stones recorded a version of the song “Susie Q” written by Dale Hawkins which appears in the film), Suzy Q tells the decidedly dejecting, if not delightfully darkly comedic, tale of an eclectically dysfunctional family led by an incestuous undersexed lard ass patriarch of the perennially unemployed and exceedingly emasculated sort who uses his family members as both emotional and physical punchbags to derive an artificial sense of power and authority because his wife won’t put out and he feels like a loser because he cannot even obtain an unskilled labor job moping bathroom floors. Set in 1967 Amsterdam when the counterculture movement began to eradicate what little was left of traditional European values, culture, and religion, Koolhoven’s 80-minutish tragicomedic family dysfunction micro-epic is a thematically ugly and cynical work that's pop-art aesthetic betrays its tone and ultimately seems like it was made simply to shit on all of American television history, which is certainly something I can respect, but at the same time, I found the work somewhat slightly distressing for more personal reasons. Indeed, as the American grandson of a Dutchman who left the Netherlands after the Second World War due to the miserable place his homeland had became, Suzy Q made me confront the patently pathetic place that the Kingdom of the Netherlands—a tiny yet once powerful ex-empire that had colonized parts of virtually every continent but is now best known for its 'liberal' (translation: apathetic) approach to drugs, abortion, prostitution, euthanasia, and third world immigration—became after the Americanization and Hollywoodization of Europa. If all the characters in the film have anything in common, it is that their sole source of solace in life is in the form of American and British mass (pseudo)culture. For example, when not attempting to fuck or beat his daughter, the father featured in Koolhoven’s film sits on his big boorish ass and watches Rawhide will sporting a goofy cowboy hat as an artificial way to reaffirm his broken masculinity as an unemployed lard ass ex-soldier who is so pathetically fat that he cannot even button up his much cherished old army tunic. Additionally, to escape from thoughts of her bastard father and loony loser brother attempting to defile her virginal body, the eponymous teenage protagonist makes scrapbooks filled with pictures of Mick Jagger and other weak and effeminate drug-addled rockers. If you ever wondered what Federico Fellini’s Amarcord (1973) or Bob Clark’s A Christmas Story (1983) would be like if they were reworked by a culturally pessimistic Dutch nihilist who wisely decided he need to have a protagonist that would provide an excess of nubile virgin eye-candy, Suzy Q is surely your best bet. 

 The year is 1967 and rather rotund jobless patriarch Ko (Jack Wouterse of Alex van Warmerdam’s The Northerners (1992) and Theo van Gogh’s 06/05 (2004)) is excited because he has found a box full of old canned WWII rations, thus giving him nostalgia for a time in his life that actually meaning and was not full of aimless banality and personal impotence. Ko is such a fat and pathetic beer-binging slob that his own wife Ruth (Linda van Dyck) won’t even fuck him, so lately he has been scheming to pop his little girl’s tight teenage cherry. Aside from the minor taboo of father-daughter incest, Suzy (Carice van Houten) does not want to fornicate with her father because she thinks he is such a pathetic loser that she literally wishes he would die. Suzy’s deranged brother Zwier (Roeland Fernhout of van Gogh’s Baby Blue (2001) and Cyrus Frisch’s Blackwater Fever (2008)) recently starting going steady with the neighborhood whore, ‘horny Betty’ (Ricky Koole), but after getting in a bloody knife-fight in a movie theater with his girlfriend's ex-boyfriend, the relationship falls apart. When Betty complains about Zwier’s violent behavior, he hatefully remarks, “What?! I did this for you bitch.” Clearly agitated that he did not get to pound Betty’s beaver, Zwier sneaks into Suzy’s bed, puts a knife to her throat, and demands that she strip, but unfortunately the involuntary brother-sister erotic excursion is cut short when drunken fat fuck Ko gets home after handing out WWII rations to hookers. The next day, Ko wakes up in pain as a result of a major hangover and his wife makes him blow chunks by teasingly offering him a scrumptious breakfast that includes, “Chocolate cake with cream…mixed with sausages…in a cat poop dressing.” Since her father is in the bathroom crying like a little bitch in between unloading loose stool and vomit from his grotesque fleshy orifices, Suzy is forced to piss in a bucket because she has to urinate so bad that she begins grabbing her genitals in an awkward fashion. The only semi-sane member of the family is brother Palmer (Michiel Huisman) and he wisely tries to avoid his kinfolk at all costs by regularly smoking dope in his friend’s Volkswagen hippie van and playing gigs where he performs painfully bad Jimi Hendrix and Rolling Stones covers. As Suzy says to Palmer while comparing him to their mutual hero Mick Jagger, “You’re never going to look like him. Mick just has it and you don’t.” Although Suzy does not it know it yet, Jagger will soon touch her jailbait main vein in a superlatively sleazy fashion that even puts her father Ko to shame, but of course considering that the rocker is her dream crush, she wallows in the sensual attention. 

 Rather preposterously, Suzy manages to get in the plush pleasure-dome of golden-haired counterculture diva Marianne Faithfull (Miranda Raison) after getting the singer’s phone number from her friend and convincing her that she is the friend of her personal designer. Of course, Suzy, who uses the English alias ‘Suzy Queen’ (hence the title of the film) and contrives a terribly phony British accent, only wants to meet Ms. Faithfull so that she can get to her much-publicized-lover Mick Jagger (played by Andrew Richard in a role that was originally supposed to be played by the rocker’s real-life nephew Demetri Jagger, who apparently backed out of the film so as not to potentially offend his uncle). When Suzy arrives at the singer’s luxury suite, Faithfull answers the door without any clothes, but the protagonist does not seem to notice because she instantly spots Jagger lying on a bed and begins immediately focusing all of her attention on him in a meek and hopelessly shy fashion. Before she knows it, the rock star is making out with her and grabbing her naughty bits, though he soon gets uncomfortable after feeling a bulge in her nether-region because she had to wear a pair of gym shorts since she ran out of clean underwear.  Undoubtedly, the scene where Suzy meets Mick and Marianne has a strange and almost dream-like quality about, thus hinting that it is is merely a figment of the considerably eccentric protagonist's imagination.  As Suzy Q makes quite apparent from the very beginning of the film, the titillating teenage titular character largely lives in an extravagant fantasy world full of big dreams that are in sharp contrast to her unfortunate reality as the much lusted over female progeny of a despicable dipsomaniac deadbeat and potential daughter-defiler.

 Although Suzy only gets to hang out with Mick and Marianne for what seems like only a couple minutes, these couple of moments seem to be the best and most magical of her life and she immediately begins obnoxiously bragging to everyone she knows in a fairly unwittingly cute fashion about how she got the blood in Mick’s prick going, or as she states to her mother, “His dick got hard…And he smelled like old tea. He fell in love with me straight away.” While Suzy’s mother attempts to tell to warn her, “sex and love are not the same, dear, especially for men,” she does not care as she genuinely believes that magical Mick loves her.  After all, considering her own father and brother express overt and somewhat predatory sensual feelings to her, Suzy naturally confuses lust with love like so many other young debutantes do.  Naturally, Suzy’s jealous father has a much worse reaction to her infatuation with Mick which is only further compounded when he breaks into her diary little a sneaky little girl and reads, “I feel sorry for my dad. He should die as soon as possible. My dad without a job is like a chair with no seat.” Indeed, while getting drunk and watching Rawhide in a silly cowboy hat, Ko accuses his daughter of being a money-grubbing whore and being attracted to “golden dicks” and then proceeds to rip her Jagger scrapbook into shreds like a jealous toddler, so Suzy hilariously calls him a “living room cowboy” and he responds by brutally slapping her around and dragging out of his flat by her hair. When Suzy’s mother hears her daughter’s horrific screams, she pathetically decides to ignore it by burying her head into a pillow. 

 Not surprisingly, Suzy does not want to go to school the next day because her body is completely covered in bruises, especially her neck, which is so discolored that it looks someone tried to strangle her to death. Meanwhile, Ruth finally gets the gall to confront her husband regarding his regular abuse of their children, stating, “One more time and I’ll divorce you.” Meanwhile, Zwier’s fragile mind begins to further deteriorate and after he discovers his pet rat ‘Victor’ dead in a mousetrap, he decides to cutout off the head of the family tortoise with his beloved pocketknife—a weapon that he always carries around and seems to have a psychosexual fetish for à la Reverend Harry Powell in Charles Laughton’s 1955 masterpiece The Night of the Hunter (which, not surprisingly, director Koolhoven has described as one of his favorite films)—in a grizzly and seemingly unsimulated scene of reptile decapitation and then makes turtle soup out of the poor pet which he serves to his unwitting family. After everyone has taken a bite, Zwier whips out the turtle shell and smirks in a sadistic fashion upon revealing to his entire family that they have just delighted in devouring the family pet. Needless to say, Zwier is not happy when he does not get the desired attention that he was seeking, with his brother Palmer even complimenting him on the soup while continuing to eat it in a completely unphased fashion. When everything is said and done, Zwier just ends up looking more pathetic than ever in his ridiculous juvenile attempt to receive attention from his unimpressed family, who clearly think he is a troubled loser. Ultimately, Ko and Ruth go for a stroll in a park where they reconcile their differences regarding their seemingly irreparably broken marriage while their Zwier slits his wrists in a bathtub. Unfortunately, poor Suzy Q suffers the shock of a lifetime after she is the one who finds Zwier's naked corpse floating in the blood-soaked tub.  Although the viewer never learns what becomes of the somewhat strangely sweet teenage girl, my guess is that she eventually wound up working in the Red Light District, which would be a somewhat ironic fate considering it is her father's favorite place.

 Although paid for with Dutch government funding, Suzy Q is currently not allowed to be legally screened or sold in any form and has been more or less held hostage by music rights scumbags because the music licensing for the film ran out. To auteur Martin Koolhoven’s great credit, he has decided to fight back by urging pirates to upload the film onto the (in)famous BitTorrent site The Pirate Bay. On top of the pirates responding to Koolhoven’s plea, he also uploaded the film himself onto YouTube, though it is currently predictably blocked in the United States due to copyright issues. Koolhoven told the website torrentfreak.com that he felt obligated to promote the film through less than legal means because, “To me, it felt like the movie had died.” In fact, Koolhoven went so far as to state, “Everyone can go to The Pirate Bay and grab a copy. People are actually not supposed to, but they have my permission to download SUZY Q.”  Obviously, films are meant to be seen and not deteriorate in some old forgotten vault, so I consider Koolhoven's efforts to make his own cult classic available as evidence that he is a virtuous auteur and serious artist who, quite unlike the kosher capitalists in Hollywood, loves cinema more than money.  Indeed, it does seem a bit absurd that the most awarded Dutch film of 1999 and a work that is considered a cult classic of sorts in the Netherlands has been made completely unavailable because of a couple shitty play-out songs by Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones, but that just goes to show how meaningless, vapid, and hypocritical classic rock stars are as delusion drunkards and drug addicts who spoke of utopia yet helped usher in a culturally homogenizing dystopia where art is merely a commodity and not the expression of an artist's lifeblood. Of course, Mick Jagger did not star in the fittingly titled work Performance (1970) where the protagonist notably says to the rocker's ‘character,’ “You're a comical little geezer. You'll look funny when you're fifty,” for nothing. 

 Admittedly the classic songs used in Suzy Q are somewhat important to the film in the sense that they give the viewer a good idea as to the sort of deleterious wold famous losers that ‘everyday’ proles like the protagonist latched onto as heroes as a result of the tragic Hollywoodization of Europe. Indeed, instead of confiding in an imaginative but in some ways helpful figure like Christ, they put all of their faith and worship into eccentric dressing negroid junkies and Brit libertines with faggy lips who would have probably been janitors or bums had they not become successful with their musical careers. Indeed, the eponymous teenage protagonist of Suzy Q is so obsessed with the shallow goal of obtaining a celebrity status that she goes outside on her balcony at night and loudly reads from Dutch counterculture degenerate Jan Cremer's writings as if she is onstage and talking to a large audience so that she can ‘practice’ for when she gets famous (of course, as the daughter of a deadbeat dead who tells her that, “the only thing that suits you is a job in a raincoat factory,” Suzy has her reasons for having such outlandish yet comforting dreams). On the other hand, if people like Suzy did not have their dreams than they would almost certainly have nothing to live for, but at least Christianity offers the metaphysical insurance policy of eternal life in an ostensibly immaculate utopia in the sky and whereas false heroes like Mick Jagger can only offer limp dicks, shitty blues guitar licks, STDs, and drug overdoses. Like the films of Todd Solondz, albeit centering around Amsterdam(ned) lumpenproles instead of the American east coast Jewish bourgeois and mostly lacking the irony that offers the viewer temporary relief from the domestic horror show they are watching, Suzy Q is surely a landmark work of true Dutch proletarian cinema that demands to be illegally downloaded. Indeed, if you’re a serious cinephile and/or cultural pessimistic, you certainly owe it to auteur Martin Koolhoven, who is himself a product of the working-class as the son of a prison guard who briefly followed in his father’s trade before his filmmaking career took off, to steal Suzy Q and screw the Rolling Stones and their record label out of royalties. While the film gives the impression that Koolhoven would eventually become a sort of Dutch Oskar Roehler, his first theatrical feature AmnesiA (2001), which also stars Carice van Houten, was certainly a change of pace artistically and made it seems like he might become the Dutch bastard son of David Lynch and Roman Polanski, thus demonstrating the filmmaker's talent as a truly chameleon-like auteur whose potential seems endless, at least as far as quasi-mainstream cinema is concerned.  

-Ty E

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