February 1, 2022

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Thank God for Paul Verhoeven!


Julian Wood
Year: 2021
Rating: R
Director: Paul Verhoeven

Virginie Efira, Charlotte Rampling, Daphne Patakia, Lambert Wilson

Distributor: Hi Gloss
Released: February 10, 2022
Running Time: 131 minutes
Worth: $16.00

FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

Thank God for Paul Verhoeven!

Thank God for Paul Verhoeven! In an age of PC and cancel culture, the Dutch-born director of Basic Instinct, Total Recall, Starship Troopers, Robocop and Elle is like a provocative breath of fresh air, rather than, say, just a dinosaur. However, as with any artist who goes near the edge, there are also some poor choices along the way.

His new film is set in a convent in Medieval Europe. It is based on a book with the title Immodest Acts, the Life of a lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy. So, it’s about sexy nuns basically.

We follow the fortunes of Benedetta (Virginie Efira), an orphaned girl who in her twenties gets her passage into a select nunnery bought for her and then proceeds to out-devout all the nuns until she rises to become the Abbess. The current head of the nunnery is played by Charlotte Rampling, in her usual thin-lipped manner. She remains unconvinced by Benedetta’s miracles, which come suspiciously thick and fast, and she also keeps a weather eye on what alliances she needs to make with the representatives of the Pope.

True to genre, the nuns are modest by day and, er, less so by night. When Benedetta sleeps right next door to Bartolomea (Daphne Patakia), another pretty young nun (why are they all so young and nubile Mr Verhoeven?), their mutual curiosity leads inevitably to exploration of a non-religious kind. You get the idea.

Efira (Bye Bye Morons, and the great TV series Call My Agent) throws herself at the role. She plays it without any inhibitions or anything else really.

The publicity blurb features a quote saying that nun stories are about to become the next pop-culture phenomenon. Not much evidence is adduced for this intriguing claim, but it is mostly clear what Verhoeven sees in this material. One could equally spin this another way by saying that once you end up making nudie nun romps, that signals pretty much the second to last stop on the journey to tastelessness. The only genre lower might be women in prison exploiters.

It would be unfair to snipe too much though, and then forget that Verhoeven is also a director of some skill and visual flair. Aside from its lesbian scenes, the film does spend quite a long time patiently exploring the Catholic politics of the era and there is plentiful intrigue, plotting and well written dialogue here. The cinematography and the settings are also visually arresting.

Perhaps we should all refocus our attention. Maybe sin is in the eye of the beholder.


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