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The Films of Paul Verhoeven at TIFF


As a very welcome and decidedly different turn from both the Oscar-nominated films and the throw-away movies that envelope theatres come January, TIFF Bell Lightbox is presenting a retrospective that entertains, provokes, and tantalizes.

Films easily accessible to all, with both satisfaction on the surface and meaning hidden below, TIFF brings forth a series on acclaimed Dutch director Paul Verhoeven, whose varying works in two different languages and countries have made him especially noteworthy, as well as often talked about, both in the positive and negative.

Films in Flesh + Blood: The Films of Paul Verhoeven has opened at TIFF Lightbox, featuring some of the most ostentacious and guiltily pleasurable mainstream features, as well as some of his significant Dutch-language films, many of which may surprise those who only know him from his days in Hollywood.

Running now through April 4, here are some of the top picks for this extensive retrospective.

Soldier of Orange

While to some Verhoeven is more defined by some of the English-language movies listed below, the auteur has quite a bit of serious, philosophic, and expansive films to his credit. Soldier of Orange was at the time (1977) was the most expensive Dutch film ever made, and incidentally the most popular of the year as well, is set in World War II in German-Occupied Netherlands. The two-and-a-half hour epic follows a group of Dutch students who assume various and divergent roles during the war in this thrilling and morally potent drama.

Friday, February 7 – 9:00 PM

The Fourth Man

From the expansive to the abstract, The Fourth Man was the last Dutch film Verhoeven made before settling in Hollywood in the 80s, foreshadowing those later features. With graphic violence, gore, and sex, the film explores Verhoven’s view on religion, following a quintessential femme fatale and her seduction of alcoholic novelist in this art house classic.

Friday, February 21 – 9:30 PM

Total Recall

This bizarre, frenetic, and mind-bending piece of sci-fi fare starring Arnold Schwarzenegger is iconic, and not just because of that three-breasted woman that shows up. Total Recall presents a sleazy and dubious portrait of the future, centered on a man who doesn’t know who he really is. It’s gross and weird and noteworthy, and the only thing better than watching it in theatres would be to listen to the DVD commentary by Verhoeven and Arnold, who take things seriously when not going on incomprehensible diatribes.

Friday, February 28 – 9:00 PM


To watch this absurd, over the top, melodramatic cult classic amid a theatre of fans seems too good an opportunity to pass up. With endless unintentional laughter, the story of an idealistic dancer who finds herself talking off her clothes with some frequency to appease the seedy underbelly of Vegas is unforgettable and unmistakably outrageous.

Friday, March 14 – 10:00 PM

Starship Troopers

While Showgirls is all about gratuitous skin, Starship Troopers is about action and gore (and yes, coed showers). What’s most satisfying about this sci-fi creature feature, aside from a pre-Hollywood Darling Neil Patrick Harris as a brilliant mad scientist, is the framework and tone. Verhoeven makes this one silly right from the start, framing the entire movie as a promotional ad of sorts, trying to get citizens to enlist in the army and fight bugs, because, you know, it’s all glory and fame.

Friday, March 21 – 9:15 PM
For more information, visit tiff.net/verhoeven.

Anthony Marcusa

A pop-culture consumer, Anthony seeks out what is important in entertainment and mocks what is not. Inspired by history, Anthony writes with the hope that someone, somewhere, might be affected.