Director Paul Verhoeven is no stranger to his films touching a nerve. May it be the “excessive” violence of “Robocop,” the nudity of “Showgirls,” the fascism in “Starship Troopers,” the Jewish refugee and SS officer’s affair in “Black Book,” and now the portrayal of rape in his new film “Elle,” Verhoeven often embraces taboo subjects most filmmakers avoid.
He is also one of the most misunderstood filmmakers in recent history. While making American big budget films in the late 80s and 90s, Verhoeven was largely dismissed by critics as being a good technician with a far too campy sensibility to be taken seriously. Now 16 years removed from Hollywood filmmaking, there is a critical re-embrace of the subversive filmmaker who often created candy-colored artifice, underneath which he delivered hard-hitting observations about American society and culture.
Verhoeven, in talking about his new film on the podcast, says he refuses to censor himself based on criticism, as he’s well aware of the controversy his new film is generating. Verhoeven also recounts how he tried to make “Elle” in America, but was incredibly fortunate to have struck out here as he now cannot image not having made the film in France with lead Isabelle Huppert. Praising the Oscar contender, Verhoeven states the film wouldn’t have worked without with her.
Verhoeven also talk about a recent series of articles, and subsequent book, he’s written about his favorite films, highlighting the influence Alfred Hitchcock and Federico Fellini have had on him as a director.
“Elle” opens in New York on November 11, Los Angeles on November 16, while “Total Verhoeven” — Lincoln Center’s complete retrospect of the directors’ films — starts on November 9.
Listen to the entire episode above.
Previous episodes include Ira Sachs on “Little Men,” Web Series 101, “Kate Plays Christine” director Robert Greene, Kirsten Johnson discussing her life as a “Cameraperson,” the “Night of” location manager on shooting in New York, Andrea Arnold on “American Honey,” Kelly Reichardt, Gianfranco Rosi on “Fire at Sea,” Barry Jenkins on “Moonlight,” and Ezra Edelman on “OJ: Made in America.”
The music used in this podcast is from the “Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present” score, courtesy of composer Nathan Halpern.