4 hours ago
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
 SPETTERS: It's good to know that even Verhoeven's small-scale Dutch-language movies are still completely trashy and pervy and entertaining. Spetters is a little coming-of-age story about three middle-class kids who mainly want to race bikes and idolize motocross champion Gerrit Witkamp (Rutger Hauer in a small though crucial part.) And there's a girl (Verhoeven favorite Renee Soutendijk) whom they all fall for in varying degrees, and there's tragedy, and comedy, and people growing up and moving on as they do in this genre. But there's undeniably Verhoevenian touches as well; copious nudity, for one (the male member should've gotten a costarring credit.) Over-the-top yet empty male bravado. A blonde woman (Soutendijk) who's perfectly comfortable using sex to get whatever she wants, and Verhoeven forgives and celebrates this character--she's the star of the picture and the rest of the cast sort of passes through it. And--I'm remembering what Pauline Kael said about Woody Allen, that only he could pass off a predilection for teenagers as a quest for true values. Well--to paraphrase her--only Paul Verhoeven could imagine an anal gangrape to be an effective way to drive a gay man out of the closet. But that's what he does! And it works somehow (just like Allen's perversions work.) My main problem is the way the movie dispatches Hans von Tongeren's character Rien, who gets crippled and left a paraplegic in an accident, and isn't able to race or perform sexually anymore, and I get the feeling the latter is more important to Verhoeven. So of course Rien has to kill himself, and half the characters don't seem to care even though they've been best pals for most of the movie. Verhoeven doesn't seem to care either--unsexuality means you're as good as dead in the Verhoevenverse. So it works in terms of the directors' instincts, but in terms of this movie and this plot it was about as necessary as Cherie Currie's death in Foxes. Yeah--Foxes and Spetters, your one-two "coming of age" punch for 1980, both flawed but very watchable.