Zwartboek / Black Book (2006, Paul Verhoeven)

screened Monday June 4 2007 at the Quad Cinema (first cineplex in the world!), New York NY

yes - If anything can be said about this unlikely (for anyone except Verhoeven) hybrid of Schindler's List and Showgirls, it's that he really knows how to keep the audience captive in its unrelenting narrative momentum. The story has as many sinuous curves as its lead, Carice Van Houten, who plays a Dutch Jew in hiding during WWII until she's eventually recruited by the resistance to seduce and spy on the head Nazi. Few directors like Verhoeven are able to exploit sex and violence for its audience-grabbing visceral effects while gradually developing a moral inquiry towards them, one that is thoroughly unsentimental but resilient. Characters cuss, screw and kill with such cartoonish vigor that it stretches credulity even as it wows and zows -- but the film's perfect casting, starting with van Houten and her flamethrower dyed-blonde locks, wins the day. The last half hour goes way off the rails with a few plot-twists and triple-crossings too many, to the point that it obfuscates more than illuminates the complex relationships between the Nazis, Dutch and Jews.