In 10 Words or Less
Sex and the Double Senior Citizens
Loves: Adult-themed documentaries
Likes: Quirky subjects
Dislikes: Miserable old people
Hates: Old sex workers
You know that weird thing where two movies about the same subjects are developed and released around the same time, like Antz and A Bug's Life or No Strings Attached and Friends with Benefits? Well, I got to experience a similar phenomenon, reviewing two documentaries with similar themes close together. After taking a look at the senior-citizen stripper at the heart of Satan's Angel: Queen of the Fire Tassels, this time I've got two of the oldest women working in the world's oldest profession, as Meet the Fokkens profiles Martine and Louise, a pair of 69-year-old identical Dutch twins who have been prostitutes for most of their lives, with Martine still plying her trade in the windows of Amsterdam's red-light district.
The thing is, while Satan's Angel wisely expanded the tale to include the history of burlesque, using its star as a focal point and entryway into an unusual world, Meet the Fokkens is very much about these two women and their lives, and the one's unusual late-life work. Its intimacy could have been a strength, but the two women are not nearly as interesting, and their story is quite sad. As you watch Martine sit in her window, and young people laugh at her advances, or as she pleases a client in an awkward manner, there's not a lot of enjoyment to be had. While the one recently retired from the game, being prostitutes in your 60s is not a positive situation for anyone involved outside of the men who seem to enjoy bedding down with grandma. As is the case with most people, time has not been kind to these women, and it would be hard to find people who won't watch these activities with at least some disgust or pity.
The bigger issue to the film though, other than the women's somewhat obnoxious, in-your-face personalities, is a lack of flow to the story. The portrait floats from one idea to another, be it the women's relationship problems and familial strife, Martine's involvement with some evangelicals looking to get her out of the business or their thoughts on the changes the red-light district has seen over their many years, without much in organic momentum or motivation. One segment, in which one of the women (I confess I lost track of which is which) hashes out her past with her daughter in a regret-filled exchange worthy of Oprah or perhaps Richard Bey, seems so completely removed from the movie that only the archival photos of the women that bookend it lent it any sort of connective tissue.
The movie isn't without its charms, as, like most older women, they love to converse, and the duo share some stories of life in the trade, including tricks they used to avoid burn-out and tales of some of their more unusual clientele. However, these stories are peppered quite conservatively throughout the more personal plotline about the women's shared histories. Getting more insight into Amsterdam's unique sex industry would have been fascinating, as would more discussion on the financial issues of the elderly, as both may have helped put the women's life-time employment as whores into better context. Instead we get a movie that seems to take their plight seriously, complete with plain-faced, yet explicit footage of Martine at work, but then seems to wink at the audience with an "ain't they wacky?" message that dilutes the overall effect.
The film arrives on a single DVD, with an animated anamorphic widescreen menu with options to play the film, select scenes, check out the extras and adjust the set-up. Audio options include Dutch Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 track, while subtitles are available in English.
The anamorphic widescreen transfer here looks great, with the footage shot for this film coming off crisp and colorful, with a nice level of fine detail, though darker scenes, like those shot while Martine is on the job, feature a good deal of noise. Overall though, the image is free of deformities (even if some of the old film and photos are a touch rough) and there are no obvious problems with compression artifacts.
Though the film is presented with a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, the purpose isn't exactly clear, as the cast majority of the film is up front and centered, with no noticeable atmospheric effects, no dynamic mixing, and no reall enhancement of the score. You don't normally expect aural fireworks when it comes to documentaries, so it's not a big disappointment, but you still wonder why the 5.1 track..
The only extra is the film's theatrical trailer, which is presented with three other trailers.
The Bottom Line
I have a hard time with a documentary that seemingly is asking us to feel for two older women who have lived tough lives, only to use them in a freakshow manner, knowing their appearance will serve mainly as a sight gag. THe DVD looks and sounds fine, but their are no extras, which makes it hard to give this anything above a rental recommendation, as it would be the rare bird who needs to own this film.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.