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In 10 Words or LessMichael's best friend and worst enemy is his penis
The MovieI am no expert on Dutch film, with personal knowledge limited mainly to the work of Paul Verhoeven, and recognizing other Dutch filmmakers from their American work, like Anton Corbijn and Tom Six. Thus, I am especially out of the loop on the Dutch Sex Wave, a cinematic movement in the Netherlands in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, spearheaded by Pim de la Parra and Wim Verstappen, which sought to eliminate film regulation in the Netherlands and establish a domestic production industry that could compete at the box office with foreign films. At that, it succeeded, depicting a more sexually permissive modern society on-screen and selling tickets at the box office, with 1971's Blue Movie being one of the biggest hits.
Michael (Hugo Metsers) has just been released from prison on parole, following a stint for a "social crime" no one cares about now--which is shockingly revealed to have been statutory rape of a 15-year-old girl. His parole officer Eddie (Kees Brusse) has set him up in an apartment in a new development on the outskirts of Amsterdam, where he hopes Michael will fly right, finding a job and a nice girl. What he instead finds is a building crawling with women who can't wait to sleep with him, be they his married neighbor (Carry Tefsen), a nearby single mother or any other woman who happens to spot him, of which there are many. Most of the film is Michael having sex with these random women, or trying to fool Eddie into thinking he's attempting to live on the straight and narrow
At some point, the film takes a harsh left turn, as Michael decides to go into business--sexy business--as the apartment building becomes a seething den of illicit activity, from live interactive sex shows to weird nude performance art to porno exhibitions. The filmmakers seem to decide we've had enough fun with all the copious flesh we've been gifted (full-frontal nudity of both varieties is plentiful, along with some images of full-penetration sex) and decides to try for some drama, as there's a dark side to Michael's wild parties. Through this portion and the character of the zoologist husband next door, the film tries to express some statement about humanity's complex struggles with its sexuality, but it gets lost amid all the floppy bits.
Shot as one of the first films by Jan de Bont--yes, that Jan de Bont--the film has an air of heightened verite, as the sex is up-close and awkward, bodies are creased and hairy, and light is harsh and ill-purposed for the locales, though the camera work and angles keep things interesting throughout. If only there was a reason to care why they kept hopping into bed with each other. It all feels very much like an attempt to throw everything taboo they could think of into one film, and figured a pre-Internet society would line up to watch (and they did.) Blue Movie fits every stereotype of the art-house foreign film full of sex and nudity that horny cinephiles seek out, rather than just give in and watch porn.
The DiscBlue Movie arrives as a two-disc set (one Blu-ray, one DVD), which is packaged in a standard-width, dual-hubbed Blu-ray keepcase. The Blu-ray has an animated menu with options to watch the film, select scenes, and check out the extras. There are no audio options, while subtitles are available in English.
The QualityAfter watching the trailer for this film, it's cler the movie could be in remarkably bad shape, but the 1080p, AVC-encoded, 1.37:1 transfer on this disc is very stable and good looking, thanks to a new restoration by the Eye Film Institute, from a 16mm reversal and 35mm duplicate negative. Color is good, though most of the film--especially external scenes--feature a bluish tint to them, while color overall is a bit low in terms of saturation. Contrast is also an issue, with some darker scenes leaning toward gray instead of black. However, there are some moments where color is rich and vibrant, so it's possible the problem is in the source materials. That kind of inconsistency can occur in a single scene, which would seem to be the result of cobbling together a high-definition master from two sources. Grain is healthy and stable, while damage is kept to a minimum for the most part (there are a few obvious problems here and there.) It's worth noting that it feels like the film may not have been framed at this aspect ratio during production, as action is sometimes too close to the edges of the screen. For example, during a sex scene in an elevator, all we get are slivers of each actor's face along the edges of the frame. It feels like the image should be wider, but this is what we have.
Presented with a Dutch Dolby Digital 2.0 track, so don't expect miracles out of this overwhelmingly balanced presentation, though dialogue is clean and easy to hear--with some slight boost of your system volume--and the dialogue and sound effects are well integrated into the mix. Music is a big elements here, and it sounds crisp and appropriately prioritized, making for a pleasing, if somewhat subtle experience.
The ExtrasThe extras kick off with a 1971 pre-release interview with director Wim Verstappen (11:21), conducted in Dutch, with English subtitles. While touching on Blue Movie and the influence of Hitchcock on cinema, the focus is on Dutch film regulation and the reaction to a challenging Netherlands-produced film, with a large section devoted to the financing of films, as Verstappen references Easy Rider and the struggle to find profits thanks to taxes and the structure of the film business. Though Verstappen is a bit standoffish, it's a somewhat dry chat, but will be of interest to those interested in the business of movies.
An introduction and interview (17:19) with producer Pim De La Parra from 2018, for a French retrospective on the Dutch Sex Wave movement, starts with a discussion with series programmer Harry Bos, who explains how the series grew out of a celebration of Paul Verhoeven, and names the films to be shown during the series. EVentually de la Parra takes the stage and chats about his career in film, including the formation of his production company, Scorpio Films, along with his goal to eliminate Dutch film inspection and the changing sexual mores at the time of Blue Movie's production. He also talks about why so much of the sex takes place while standing and the importance of the star's penis and Jan de Bont's role in that element. The piece is presented in French (translated from de la Parra's Dutch), with English subtitles.
The star's son. Hugo Metsers Jr., sits down for a 2018 interview (in English) in which he talks about what it was like growing up with his uninvolved parents, what it was like seeing Blue Movie for the first time, and his father's life and career, including Frank and Eva.
A 7:02 promo for the Eye Film Institute in Holland, offers a tour of the organization's impressive facility and holdings, but it's hard to watch thanks to the very shaky camerawork (a real irony considering the subject matter.) How do you have shaky footage of a sit-down interview? Either way, it looks like very cool place to visit.
"Blue Movie Poster & Photo Video Gallery" is a 3:08 montage of posters and stills for the movie. The stills include what's either an alternate and far more evocative alternate title or a theater name: Das Porno-Haus Der Amsterdam.
The extras wrap up with four Scorpio Films trailers, for Blue Movie, Frank & Eva, Obsessions and My Nights with Susan, Sandra, Olga & Julie. Very direct in selling the film, the Blue Movie trailer shows how bad the film could have looked before the restoration it received (though not as bad as Obsessions.) My Nights looks like the insane winner out of this group though.
The Bottom LineBlue Movie may be an important film in the history of Dutch cinema, but as a movie to be enjoyed it's rather lacking, stringing sex scenes along a modicum of a storyline, while character development is slim to nonexistent. Even in terms of titillation it comes up short, with mostly perfunctory sexual activities and nudity that is best described as less than glamorous. The presentation, especially for a film of a much lower profile, is mostly solid though, and Cult Epics has supposed the film with a decent spread of bonus content to check out. There may be some curiosity value in checking out this then-envelope-pushing Euro milestone for on-screen sex, but most audiences won't be turned on by it.
Reviewer's Bias*Loves: foreign films
Dislikes: light plots, sex for sex's sake
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.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.