1977, The Netherlands
Recently, studies have shown that injecting stem cells into the brains of mice suffering from Alzheimer’s may clear away the amyloid plaque that builds up in the cerebellum, indicating that there may one day be a cure for whatever’s causing Paul Verhoenven to make terrible movies. As evidenced by Soldier of Orange, and to a lesser extent Spetters, Verhoeven once had the ability to construct a cogent narrative, develop characterization, and stage action scenes all at the same time, whereas now, he’s so far gone into dementia he cast Jessie from Saved By The Bell in a lead role.
Soldier of Orange has nearly everything you could want in a war film: action, subterfuge, and Rutger Hauer’s penis, thrown in to placate women still wet from being obsessed with Blade Runner in high school. Set in the Netherlands during the Second World War, the film follows a group of University students whose lives are changed when the Nazis invade. Some live, some die, and most show their genitals. The highlight of Verhoeven’s career, everything went downhill after this film. For a while, as in Robocop and Showgirls, it seemed like he might be doing it on purpose, like a crazy old man who shits his pants not because he’s incontinent, but because he can get away with it. Sadly, it quickly became apparent that he was just losing his mind. And he’s not the first to suffer from director’s Mad Cow.
- Ridley Scott. First, he made The Duelists, a light-hearted but beautifully shot period piece. Then, he did Alien, probably the best science-fiction film ever made for people who couldn’t sit still through 2001: A Space Odyssey. Then, the stress of trying to make Tom Berenger a star in Someone To Watch Over Me tore his mind apart, and before you knew it, G.I. Jane was being seriously pitched as the title for a drama.
- John Dahl. Revisionist film noir? Check. Low-key Western crime thriller? Check. Movie about killer truck? Awesome. That’s like authoring Wuthering Heights and then taking a job writing copy for AM radio.
- John Singleton. From the youngest person to be nominated for a Best Director Oscar to the only person to have seen his own film 2 Fast 2 Furious, all in just 12 years. Quite an accomplishment.
If you ask me, I blame Hollywood. Or Canadian beef.