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DVD SAVANT

Savant Review:

TURKISH DELIGHT


Turkish Delight
Anchor Bay
1973 / Color / 1:78 anamorphic 16:9 / 112 m. (Turks fruit)
Starring Rutger Hauer, Monique van de Ven, Dolf de Vries, Tonny Huurdeman
Cinematography Jan de Bont
Film Editor Jan Bosdriesz
Original Music Rogier van Otterloo
Writing credits Gerard Soeteman from the book by Jan Wolkers
Produced by Rob Houwer
Directed by Paul Verhoeven

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Viewers who think that no-restraint director Paul Verhoeven's world began with RoboCop are getting a crash course in superior filmmaking from Anchor Bay this Spring.  This disc is the Dutch director's breakthrough hit from 1973, a truly eye-opening, sexually frank romance between a bohemian artist and the young woman who said Yes ... again and again.

Synopsis:

Eric Vonk (Rutger Hauer) is a young Dutch sculptor and ladies' man with a knack for picking up adventurous girls for wild bouts of lovemaking.  He eventually meets Olga Staples (Monique van de Ven) and their mutual attraction is like two dogs in heat.  Their first is consummated in her car, and followed by a serious accident.  Interfering relatives can't keep them apart and soon the pair are living together in Eric's studio, making statues and making love 'round the clock.  Eric is abrasive, destructive, intense, and selfish.  Their bond seems made in heaven until Olga rebels and leaves him, stating the obvious fact that all he wants to do is make love.  He's borderline out-of-control under normal circumstances, so what happens next is completely unpredictable.

Called in turn a Dutch Love Story, a horrible mess of tastelessness, and great art, Turkish Delight was made by a filmmaker dedicated to the concept of shock.  This is as earthy as honest filmmaking gets: Billy Wilder in interviews claimed that interaction between real lovers doesn't stop at bourgeois niceties (such as Marlene Dietrich spitting toothpaste in her lover's face in A Foreign Affair) but here Paul Verhoeven goes full out with an intimate relationship seemingly without borders.  Most bodily functions get involved;  Verhoeven's philosophy seems to be that real commitment is messy, and he wastes no opportunity to rub our noses in this fact.

This insistence on in-your-face, blunt depictions of all kinds of activity (some not so 'shocking', just unexpected) does make Turkish Delight fascinating.  It starts with full frontal male nudity & masturbation and goes on from there - and the really 'shocking' thing is that with all the 'nasty' content, the film never seems exploitative or less credible than any other intimate romance.  Just more honest ... ?  And certainly more messy.

Eric's lovemaking style has about as much finesse as the way he handles his bicycle - letting it smash into anything handy, scratching up parked cars, etc.  His 'girlfriends' have bruises to think about before worrying about their trashed egos.  You can tell it's love at first sight when he encounters the terminally game Olga, driving her daddy' Rolls-Royce.  Within a half hour, Eric's gotten himself into a painful, There's Something About Mary situation with a certain body part and a zipper, and managed to crash the car too.  A slap to the face is more often than not answered with a smile and more lovemaking; we aren't given much explanation for their breakup, except Olga's protest against Eric's one-track sex drive.

The plot is almost as thin as Love Story's.  The hero is left at the fadeout with a statue and a wig.  Obvious similarities aside, it is true that most of the abruptstory turns are meant to simply be accepted - the source novel is said to be an account of a real relationship, and in a rollercoaster affair like this one, things happen without a literary structure to make them all seem 'motivated.'  Content here is provided by the physical relationship in front of the camera.  The daring of the performances is astonishing, and makes total mush of so-called 'edgy' American movie sex, even twenty-five years later.  Forget about Sharon Stone parting her legs, which is as rough as Paul Verhoeven could get in America.  The actors in this film are truly daring.  Monique van de Ven is particularly good about being so darn honest with her clothes off that you never think this is some tart cozened into making a movie.  Whether it's her open face or slightly toothy smile, you care intensely about her.  Rutger Hauer is good as always, but we never quite warm up to him, even if we quietly admire his brand of bohemian anarchy.

Verhoeven's uninhibited glee for icky details apparently pays off here, for we buy the occasional clichéd scene, such as when Paul proves his capacity for tenderness by healing an injured seabird (which he ran over with a car, of course).  Verhoeven also uses a partial flashback device, which comes off as as confusingly off-putting for a few minutes.  That, and the freaky, brash sex in the first reel probably cleared all the prudes out of the theaters, to make room for the millions who made Turkish Delight the most popular Dutch film of all time.


Anchor Bay is turning out some of the smoothest foreign DVDs around. This one has a handsome 16:9 transfer, a strong soundtrack (nice jazz music) and those language-learning-friendly removeable subtitles.  The text on the jacket wrapper and in the bios in the menu are astute and informative: real comment on the films and personae as opposed to the publicity pap to which most major studios are pretty much forced to adhere.  Paul Verhoeven's commentary track shows an intelligent man who is frank about his early career and the details of this picture.  He's not the most-loved director at the moment, but the excesses and ugly miscalculations of something like Showgirls seem inevitable (not necessarily forgiveable) given his all-consuming desire for challenging shock value.

Turkish Delight is indeed strong stuff, kind of a sexual gauntlet for the Meek Of Loin.  PC types will be mortified - there's not a hint of social consciousness here, just crazy and irresponsible behavior.  1  So it's that much more of a surprise when Verhoeven and co. generate such a strong emotional charge with their ending.  Recommended, but if the movie causes arguments or breaks up a relationship, don't blame Savant.


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Turkish Delight rates:
Movie: Good
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: none
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: , 2001


Footnote:

1. Actually, there is some PC content - the first thing Olga does when it's time to jump in the sack is to dump a purse-ful of condoms onto a table, like ammo for the battle to come.
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