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Black Book (Zwartboek)

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Dave Hackman, Mar 8, 2007.

  1. Dave Hackman

    Dave Hackman Well-Known Member

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    This film takes place in Holland near the end of the WWII with parts of the country under Nazi occupation and other parts liberated. Rachel Stein (Carice van Houten) an attractive Jewish girl and former recognized singer, continues to hide awaiting an end to the war. Unfortunately her fate is a little more complicated then just hanging out and soon she finds herself on an unrelenting journey beginning with a rendezvous with her family who along with her hope to gain safe passage by boat to the liberated area. Eventually Rachel finds herself collaborating with the Nazi opposing Dutch resistance movement. Her mission status jumps into high gear when word returns of her unrehearsed flirtatious meeting with a high-ranking German officer.

    I had the pleasure of seeing this at the Miami film festival where it played to a sold out auditorium. The director Paul Verhoeven and the lead Actress Carice van Houten were in attendance and both spoke briefly before the movie started.

    Paul has directed such films as Turks fruit, Soldier of Orange, Robocop, Total Recall, Starship Troopers, Hollow man, Basic Instinct and others. He began with an introduction to the time this movie takes place (1944) and the location (Northern Holland). This film took many years and rewrites to come to fruition and at one point it actually had a man as the lead character. Paul enjoyed the freedom of creating this movie outside the USA. No politically correct creative restrictions were imposed on him and it seems this was something he’d been subject to and not cared for previously.

    After seeing the film I agree that some of the scenes would have been altered by a US studio due to there bare nature. Nothing out of line just male/female frontal nudity, graphic headshot wounds and up front personal attacks with firearms.

    The thing I like most about this film is how it’s presented; up close and personal with a slight rawness that complements it’s adventurous tone. You constantly feel as if your moving forward no mater what the circumstance is. Someone is doing something or betraying/plotting against another and it all must be completed before the war ends. It’s far from a boring textbook history lesson. I think this helps separate it from the many other Nazi films.

    Carice van Houten delivers a fantastic Ripley like performance as the lead lady who begins in hiding and ends with a tough as nails exterior firmly developed from her necessity to overcome the many setbacks that never seem to give her a break. I fell in love with her from the opening scene not only due to her physical beauty but also from her very strong and confident persona. In real life Carice van Houten looks totally different to the point that I could hardly believe it was she on the screen.

    This film clocks in at 145 minutes but never slows or feels stretched. It actually reminded me of Raiders of the Lost Ark as it had so many areas it wanted to cover.

    This is the best film I’ve seen this young year and it's definitely something I will add to my movie collection.

    Subtitles in English are easy to read and the sound effects are very good.

    A

    Official Site http://www.sonyclassics.com/blackbook/
     
  2. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Well-Known Member

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    Sony Pictures Classics is rolling this out slowly. It was in 52 theaters last weekend (4/20) and expands to 99 theaters today (4/27). If it comes your way, grab the chance to see it on a big screen, because it's worth it.

    I doubt Verhoeven's reputation with American critics will ever recover from Showgirls (or, for that matter, Basic Instinct), but the fact remains that he's become an extraordinarily accomplished filmmaker. Just compare Black Book to his earlier Dutch film set during Word War II, Soldier of Orange, and the difference is immediately obvious. They're both good films, but Black Book hurtles forward with an irresistible narrative propulsion that shows how much Verhoeven learned making movies for American audiences.

    It doesn't hurt that the script (which Verhoeven co-wrote) is crowded with enough reversals of fortune, zigzags of fate, betrayals and moral ambiguities to fill an entire season of 24. The survival of the main character, Rachel (or Ellis, as she's known for most of the film), is never in doubt, because the film opens in post-war Israel, where Rachel now lives and where a chance encounter sends her thoughts back in time. But how she survives is an amazing story, and whether or not it's based on true events (as an opening title card claims), it puts the audience through a ringer. If Carice van Houten weren't so convincing as Rachel/Ellis, the story wouldn't work.

    There's plenty of violence, but unlike the cartoonish antics of, say, Total Recall, this violence often carries the sickening sensation of a violation. Maybe that's because Verhoeven was free, outside the U.S. studio system, to depict the human body realistically, in all of its functions (I'll leave it at that).

    Verhoeven's films often end with killer last shots; think of the ice pick in Basic Instinct or the crane shot that ends Showgirls. Black Book is no exception, and I suspect the conclusion may raise some hackles. No doubt that's what this unrepentant provocateur intended.

    M.
     
  3. Holadem

    Holadem Well-Known Member

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    Oh my, Michael, that is almost a... review! [​IMG]

    Eh at least this one playeth in my neck of the woods this weekend. Does this subject matter ever get old?

    --
    H
     
  4. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Well-Known Member

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    I think of it as a recommendation, with details. [​IMG]

    M.
     
  5. Henry Gale

    Henry Gale Well-Known Member

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    About 2% of those 99 theaters are in Austin!
    Hope to see it tomorrow, but, it's also Eeyore's Birthday, so it's hard to say. [​IMG]
     
  6. Holadem

    Holadem Well-Known Member

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    Make that another solid recommendation, I've not seen 2+ hours go by so fast in a long time.

    I am guessing the not so subtle jabs at Christianity will elicit more hackles.

    Fun movie. It galls me that I had to see this in the crappy local art joint, but what are you gonna do.

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    --
    H
     
  7. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator
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    When I saw it in a cinema, in October, I hesitated (or you can also say: hardly) to recommend it here. I wasn't sure if and if so, when, it would be in US theaters, but I was even less confident how it would be perceived in another country.

    We certainly have not as many movie actors as you have, and the cast of this film (except for the actress, Carice van Houten, playing the protagonist) has several well-known (some too much seen) faces in it. Also, weaker parts, especially in the dialogue, are very readily heard by a Dutch speaking person than by someone who isn't familiar with the language.

    That said: my wife and I were personally blown away by Zwartboek (Black Book) by Paul Verhoeven, and not just we alone. Indeed Paul Verhoeven seems to have restrained himself enough to deliver a true masterpiece once more. He didn't just take an existing novel: he wrote on the script himself. The result was a highly acclaimed "box office success" in this country and a brilliant time piece.

    Some scenes where actually filmed near my own house, only two blocks away (if I'm not mistaken).

    I agree with Michael Reuben that Verhoeven has grown considerably since he directed Soldier of Orange, but at the same time I say that he somehow got back to those same roots of his with Zwartboek (one word in Dutch).

    I'm glad to read here that it's such an acceptable movie in American eyes too - in fact I find it even somewhat disappointing how little posts this thread got.

    Why am I posting this? To show you the cover of a brand new DVD that came out in April in my country. A 2-disc Special Edition DVD version. PAL. Anamorphic (2.35:1), with DTS and DD5.1 sound: Dutch tracks, and the first disc (the movie) with English and Dutch subtitles.
    Spoken language is not Dutch alone: people here are supposed to understand a few English, German and Yiddish (Hebrew) lines if they happen to occur. And given the subject and the period, they do abundantly.

    BTW, (1) the price was splendid too (€17.99 for the SE), (2) the artwork seems to be a mirror image of the US artwork. I'm not totally sure what the original one is.

    (I haven't seen the DVD yet - because my current setup during a reconstruction of my home only has the R1 Toshiba HD DVD / SDVD player operational, not my modified all-region SDVD-player - and my memory of some of the film details isn't good enough to tell you which of those two pictures was mirrored.)

    Highly recommended, even the DVD!


    [​IMG]



    Cees
     
  8. JonZ

    JonZ Well-Known Member

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    I had asked about this film awhiel back when it played at the Toronto film festival after a very favorable review from James B.

    I remember someone responding pretty negatively and my anticipation for this sunk. Ill seek this one out.

    "After seeing the film I agree that some of the scenes would have been altered by a US studio due to there bare nature. Nothing out of line just male/female frontal nudity, graphic headshot wounds and up front personal attacks with firearms."

    Why do you say that Dave? Its obviously a adult film, so why alter it?
     
  9. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator
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    It's always risky to base one's decision on 1 judgement only. And at least I even disagree with his reasoning.


    Cees
     
  10. Henry Gale

    Henry Gale Well-Known Member

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    Highly recommended!
     
  11. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Well-Known Member

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    Just a quick note after watching this on Blu-ray last weekend: It's every bit as good on a second viewing, and the BR disc is an excellent presentation. It's also out on SD DVD in R1, but I haven't seen that version. If the film didn't come to a local theater, now's your chance.

    M.
     
  12. Andy Sheets

    Andy Sheets Well-Known Member

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    The standard dvd looked okay to me but I wish we could get a special edition for it. Overall I'd say this was the best movie I've seen this year.
     
  13. Chuck Mayer

    Chuck Mayer Well-Known Member

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    Just enjoyed the Blu-Ray after a recommendation by Haggai a few months back. It piles on the coincidences, but moves fast enough that you won't notice (or won't care). Pretty strong (and very sure) filmmaking with a excellent lead turn by the stunning Carice Van Houten. Glad I finally checked it out.
     
  14. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Well-Known Member

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    I completely forgot about this one
     
  15. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    I'm late to the party here.

    Thanks to a recommendation from Michael Reuben, I recently
    purchased and watched this film on Blu-ray.

    By far the best picture I have seen over the last year. I'm
    surprised it received no Oscar nods.
     
  16. SD_Brian

    SD_Brian Well-Known Member

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    I would have thought it would be a shoo-in for a foreign film nod at least but I believe there are some rather Draconian rules to get a nomination in that category. Plus, this was another of those years where the Academy forgot that there were actually movies released between January and September. For some reason, only the technical categories seem to ever remember that.
     
  17. Joe D

    Joe D Well-Known Member

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    I watched this as soon as it came out on DVD and I thought it was great.

    So far Paul Verhoven is batting 1.00 with his WWII pics, very interesting films from Hollands POV.
     

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