Wednesday, May 8, 2013

30 Countries Parts 5 - 7 (Soldier of Orange/Three Businessmen/Jamon Jamon)

Soldier of Orange (1979) Dir. Paul Verhoeven

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Part 5 of the 30 Countries project.

For the purposes of this project this movie is classed as at least partially being of Dutch origin as per its listing on imdb.

Soldier of Orange is adapted from the book of the same name which tells the true story of its author Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema, was voted second greatest film in Dutch history in 1999, also a four part TV series in Holland and the movie that brought Paul Verhoeven to Hollywood's attention, not to forget without which we wouldn't have witnessed our memories being lost like tears in the rain.

Roelfzema is renamed Erik Lanshof and is played by Rutger Hauer, the centrepiece of this drama of German occupied Netherlands and a group of wealthy college kids who are swept up in various ways by the war, some fighting with the resistance movement whilst others side with the Nazi's.

I've now seen eight Verhoeven movies and I am yet to cease being amazed that the same person who made his Dutch movies made his American movies. They're like chalk and cheese they're so incompatible. Although if you have a cheese sandwich with white bread there's likely to be some chalk involved somewhere. Hmmm. Food for thought.

This is a classy and intelligent wartime biopic that suffers from some of the same flaws that all pictures of this type suffer from; a large cast of characters that get lost in the wide scope, an episodic plot, details left out or glossed over for the sake of brevity, that kind of thing but not to any major detriment.

It seems to me that the Europeans make WWII movies in a much more interesting manner than Americans, they focus on the small details and the personal stories rather than overt displays of flag waving patriotism, masses of explosions, the glory being an American and saving the world or revenge for Pearl Harbour.

Not quite as affecting as Black Book however.

Three Businessmen (1998) Dir. Alex Cox

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Part 6 of the 30 Countries project.

For the purposes of this project this movie is classed as at least partially being of British origin as per its listing on imdb.

I recently supported Alex Cox's new project on kickstarter, based purely on his approach towards cinema. Yes I love Repo Man but beyond that his work has been very much a mixed bag of entertainment in my opinion.

Three Businessmen is another interesting and mostly ignored Alex Cox movie, a largely justified status for it I must say and exactly the reason why he has to raise funds on a crowd sourcing website. A bizarre tale of two obnoxious strangers who get lost whilst walking the streets of Liverpool, England in search of food and spend the next hour or so on an absurd journey around the globe whilst discussing the state of the capitalist world. Part Luis Bunuel, part Gus van Sant , almost all of it annoying.

Jamon Jamon (1992) Dir. Bigas Luna

Rating: 2 out of 5
Part 7 of the 30 Countries project.
 For the purposes of this project this movie is classed as at least partially being of Spanish origin as per its listing on imdb.

This movie about ham is responsible for making stars of Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem. It's also a farcical comedy of manners and discourse on Spanish society in the early 1990s featuring nude all male midnight bullfighting. Those Spanish males really are pumped up on their own machismo aren't they.

If I saw this movie advertised today I would avoid it like the plague, it seems perfectly pitched for the Perth yummy mummy white pant brigade that find everything simply wonderful and charming and make me froth with rage. It's certainly saucy enough to appeal to older ladies, with enough nudity to conform to the stereotypical Anglo views of European cinema.

However it is a film I'd heard praised repeatedly over the past 15 years and thought this might be a good chance to get it out of the way. Perhaps the praise only came from Spanish friends and something got lost in translation or maybe I don't have the right sense of humour because for a comedy this didn't manage to actually make me laugh, smile politely a few times sure but laugh, no.

I wish I'd picked something more interesting from Spain now.


  1. Black Book is on my watchlist, so I'll check it out before I decide on Soldier of Orange. Jamon Jamon is also on my radar, but I'll keep my expectations down.

    1. I think you have to be exactly the right kind of person to appreciate European comedies of the sexes, so I wish you luck.