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Black Book

Art House & International movie directed by Paul Verhoeven

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An engaging, exciting, hilarious and loopy film about the Dutch resistance in WWII

  • Oct 10, 2007
I won't reiterate the plot here since other reviews have described the film in sufficient detail, but merely want to make a point about Verhoeven's work, that this film in particular helped me see. While "Black Book" may seem a far cry from Total Recall, Robocop, Basic Instinct, Showgirls and Starship Troopers (some of Verhoeven's best known Hollywood films) it shares with each of these films Verhoeven's keen insight into what makes a genre film tick and his perverse delight in undercutting and challenging the dichotomies and distinctions that tend to characterize standard genre films. This is Verhoeven's first Dutch film in a long time, and it recalls some of his early films before he went to Hollywood at the same time as it shows his fascination with the way in which films that recall conventional genres carry with them a set of audience expectations that can be played with and twisted. This film, beautifully shot and with exceptional performances, is an emotional roller coaster in which the viewer gets caught up in the excitement of an escape, then horrified by tragedy, then engaged by romance, then titillated by eroticism, then horrified as the heroine falls in love with someone we are conditioned to hate, then sympathizing with the enemy, then .... and so on. Verhoeven can make you laugh out loud and a moment later gasp in disgust and then become fascinated and then afraid. The film is nothing less than wildly entertaining, but at the same time (like all of his films) is underscored by Paul Verhoeven's intriguing brand of humanism: he recognizes and insists that there is no good and evil and that all of us are in some way compromised and yet holds out a hope and a conviction that there is the possibility of heroically, out of love and genuine fellow feeling, rising above the endless intrigue and selfishness and cruel lust and war that he clearly depicts as the dominating force of human experience. At the same time, he recognizes that this very hope and belief in love and human dignity is a fragile thing because it is so easily manipulated and there are so many who out of greed for power and money will manipulate this hope. His films remain compelling for continuing to hold out that hope, and for the genuine affection they display for even his most flawed characters.

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review by . October 05, 2009
"The Black Book"    Hiding in Plain Sight    Amos Lassen    What a wonderful gripping drama this is. "The Black Book" reminds us of how good movies can be. It starts in 1956 and we meet Rachel Stein (Carice von Houten), an Israeli citizen teaching school on a kibbutz when she meets an old friend who is on vacation with her husband. That meeting brings back all of the painful memories she had tried to erase. We then travel backwards to 1944 …
review by . January 01, 2008
The Netherland's `Black Book' has many attributes on its "list". Glossy cinematography, excellent acting, and fine direction lead a movie with the look and feel of a classic. The best thing about the film, though, is its distinctive story. "Inspired by true events," director Paul Verhoeven gives us a unique survivor tale during The Holocaust.     Like many survivors, singer Rachel Stein (Carice van Houten), flees the Gestapo by ferry with her companions. While many are brutally …
review by . September 27, 2007
Just when we think we have read about or seen all of the stories there are to tell about courageous heroes/heroines who sacrificed much for the sake of many during World War II, along comes BLACK BOOK (ZWARTBOEK) with another dramatic 'biography' of a significant figure. Director Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct, Spetters, Total Recall) is a much admired Dutch artist who is able to draw his audience into another world so real that it literally feels as though we are part of the process. And that is …
About the reviewer
Nathan Andersen ()
Ranked #68
I teach philosophy at Eckerd College, in Saint Petersburg, Florida.      I run an award-winning International Cinema series in Tampa Bay (www.eckerd.edu/ic), and am co-director of … more
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As inBasic Instinct, a lovely lady takes the lead inBlack Book, but this time Paul Verhoeven has more than cheap thrills in mind. Towards the end of WWII, Rachel Stein (the vibrant Carice von Houten), a Jewish singer, is living with a gentile family in the countryside. When Allied forces bomb the area, she's forced to flee. On her perilous journey to The Hague (Verhoeven's hometown), brunette Rachel joins the Resistance and changes her identity to blonde Ellis de Vries. Her next order of business: infiltrate Gestapo headquarters. Like many Verhoeven heroines, Rachel aces her assignment--and then some. First, she seduces the handsome Captain Müntze (Sebastian Koch,The Lives of Others), then she falls in love with him. Müntze, who returns her affection, isn't what he appears to be, but their relationship puts both at great risk. At this point, the filmmaker expertly kicks the proceedings into high gear, before concluding on a bittersweet note. Naturally, since this is a Verhoeven picture, there's plenty of wry humor and uninhibited sexuality along the way. Starting with 1985'sFlesh + Blood, the Dutch director released an American movie every two to three years. After the poorly receivedHollow Man, however, Verhoeven took a six-year break.Black Book, a return to his native Holland, was worth the wait. (He began work on the screenplay in the 1980s.) It works triple-time as a thriller, a tribute to Holland's Jewish population, and a poison pen letter to the Dutch ...
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Director: Paul Verhoeven
Genre: Foreign
DVD Release Date: September 25, 2007
Runtime: 145 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures
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