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February 01, 2006

Turkish Delight


Turks Fruit
Paul Verhoeven - 1973
Anchor Bay Region 1 DVD

At the time of the Showgirls blog-a-thon of January 11, I felt the need to see an early Paul Verhoeven film I had previously missed. I have to conclude that had more critics had taken the time to see Turkish Delight, than nothing in Showgirls would have been particularly surprising. Sure, Turkish Delight is the better film, and even has the bragging rights of an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, but somehow Showgirls manages to be a model of decorum in comparison.

The film opens with Rutger Hauer clubbing a guy to death and shooting a woman in the head which turns out to be a dream, followed by his running around his house wearing only a t-shirt, jerks off to a photo on the wall, followed by picking up and bedding three women. That's all in the first five minutes of the film! The character of Erik, a sculptor, has moments of extreme anti-social behavior that make Showgirls' Nomi appear almost refined. Verhoeven is uninhibited in his filming of erotic activity and bodily functions. While the Farrelly Brothers may get laughs at Ben Stiller's expense in There's Something about Mary, Verhoeven makes sure we see Hauer's problems with zipping his pants to hastily. In Andrew Sarris' The American Cinema is a comparison between "the Lubitsch smile and the (Preston) Sturges guffaw". I may be stretching an analogy here in describing the approaches to gross-out humor as comparable between the Farrellys and Verhoeven.

Most of Turkish Delight is about Erik's volatile relationship with Olga (Monique Van de Ven), Erik's lover, muse and wife. The pair continually rebel against middle-class values and propriety, frequently as personified by Olga's mother. Erik turns down the offer to take over his in-laws' television store, travels by bicycle instead of owning a car, and takes art commissions on his own terms. Erik's art is as fully erotic as his life.

This unity of life and art in the main characters is what makes Showgirls something of a companion piece to Turkish Delight. Both films center on sexually active characters who are involved in art based on objectifying women. Turkish Delight is the better film because the characters are ultimately humanized by Verhoeven rather than remaining as the cartoons that populate Showgirls.

Posted by peter at February 1, 2006 08:41 AM