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February 12, 2019

Blue Movie

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Wim Verstappen - 1971
Cult Epics two-disc all region DVD/BD set

There is this shot repeated in Blue Movie that neatly sums up viewing the film almost fifty years after its production. The cinematography is by Jan de Bont, early in his career. The camera is completely overhead, looking straight down, on two couples having sex. They are seen on a green surface, within a circular frame. The effect is as if viewing some form of life under a microscope. Voyeurism is a theme that pops up in the films by Dutch filmmakers Wim Verstappen and Pim de la Parra, that of both their films characters, and by implication, the audience.

Known collectively as Pim and Wim, the two set out to prove that Dutch filmmakers could succeed in the international market back in the late Sixties. Blue Movie was one of the films Verstappen co-wrote as well as directed, a 16mm production designed to compete with soft core films of the time. What temporarily got in the way of the film's initial release was that the Netherlands had an older rating system that had not caught up with the more liberalized standards and self-imposed adult only ratings in the U.S. and some other western countries. Blue Movie changed how films were rated in the Netherlands. That it made over a million dollars helped pave the way for other erotically charged Dutch films, especially those by newcomer Paul Verhoeven.

Those who saw Blue Movie weren't there for the nonsensical story. Michael, just out on parole, moves into an apartment in a huge, anonymous building. Michael's crime was having sex with an underage girl. Lonely, Michael gets to know some of his female neighbors by "borrowing" a cup of sugar (a plot device that was creaky even then). Michael becomes very popular with several of the women in the building, but finds himself falling in love with a young single mother. His parole officer, whose attention to Michael borders on the homoerotic, shows up at inopportune times. Initially not putting any effort in gainful employment, Michael becomes an entrepreneur of sex shows and films.

Whether one finds the antics in Blue Movie erotic is up to the eye of the individual viewer. Most of the scenes of sex are played for fun. For myself, I think I have seen more than enough of star Hugo Metsers nude. It may be to the film's credit that the actresses have an everyday kind of attractiveness, neither glamorized or artificially enhanced.

Putting Blue Movie into historical context are the generous supplements. The first is an interview with Wim Verstappen prior to the film's release in 1971. Producer Pim de la Parra speaks about making Blue Movie as part of the introduction to the series of Dutch films shown at the Cinematheque Francaise in 2018. An interview with Hugo Metsers, Jr. includes an anecdote of the son discovering Blue Movie by accident when he was ten years old. There is also a brief documentary on the Eye Film Institute, responsible for the restoration of several vintage Dutch films. The three supplements from 2018 were produced by Cult Epic's Nico B, who has made several of these almost forgotten Dutch films available for a wider audience.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at February 12, 2019 07:04 AM