Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Turkish Delight

Turks fruit; erotic drama, Netherlands, 1973; D: Paul Verhoeven, S: Rutger Hauer, Monique van de Ven, Tonny Huurdeman, Wim van den Bink, Hans Boskamp

Eric is a sculptor who constantly has sex with as many women as he can. However, he is never satisfied and recounts his happy days with the girl of his dreams, Olga, two years ago: after escaping from a dinner party, he hitchhiked at the highway and was picked up by Olga in her car. They had sex at a parking lot, but the car went out of control and crashed, injuring Olga. Further complications arose when Olga's mother was against Eric. Still, Eric and Olga got married and enjoyed a lot of sex. Her father died from an illness, she had to find a job and then started cheating on Eric with another man. Back in present, Eric meets Olga again, who returned from the US after separating from an American businessman. It turns out she has a brain tumor. Eric supports her in the hospital, but she dies. He throws her wig into trash.

With over 3,338,000 tickets sold at the box office, Paul Verhoeven's 2nd film, "Turkish Delight", became the highest grossing Dutch film of its times, breaking all records at the cinemas in its homeland. "Turkish Delight" is one of those rare movies that cause a "meltdown" of critics when trying to pin it down in any category: it is extreme, wild, dirty, restless and crude — and yet, at the same time, it contains some genuine truths about life, as well as a very emotional story when the viewers see it to the end. It may sound like an oxymoron, but this is a movie without subtlety — yet, ironically, at the same time, with sophistication. Because despite each and every controversial scene, the story about a "wild" love couple is basically a message about living life to the fullest and enjoying it, since life is short and you may never know when its ultimate harshness will cave onto you and death may take away the people you love the most. This is evident in several memento mori details or scenes placed throughout the film, from the episode where Olga's father dies up to the moment where Eric finds out Olga's mother had breast cancer.

Still, the movie is remembered mostly for its quirky, cheerful moments of humor, combined with sex scenes, and the first 10 minutes alone make this almost a burlesque: Eric's one night stands are downright hilarious (when a girl asks him for a souvenir, he puts his penis on a piece of paper and gives her a drawing of his intimate part; he has sex with a woman who rocks a baby in a baby carriage placed right next to their bed (!)...), and there is even a scene where he randomly stumbles into a party, one overweight, middle-aged woman wants to kiss him, and then Eric kisses her with such intensity that she loses her wig. Verhoeven's worldview is the closest to director S. Imamura, who also wanted to include the unglamourous, "inconvenient" side of life, proposing that movies should show everything, both the "lower" and "higher" side of human existence. In such, there are such explicit scenes of the camera directly showing Olga's feces in the toilet when Eric "inspects" them after she thought she defecated blood. All this makes for a 'rough' movie, even though the emotional dimension compensates for it, just showing a couple being simply happy and free in resisting any social conventions or conservatism, whereas the debut actors Rutger Hauer and Monique van de Ven are great in the leading roles. "Turkish Delight" seems like a story written by a teenage Shakespeare: it is crude, vile, clumsy, and yet, at the same time, it says some genuine truths about life that hint at greatness.


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