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Turkish Delight
cast: Monique van de Ven, Rutger Hauer, Tonny Huurdeman, and Wim van den Brink

director: Paul Verhoeven

104 minutes (18) 1973
widescreen ratio 1.66:1
Tartan DVD Region '0' retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
In the opening scene of Turkish Delight (aka: Turks fruit), we see a man kill another man with a hammer blow to the head, and shoot a woman between the eyes. This man is Eric (Rutger Hauer), a sculptor, who is trying to deal with the break-up of his marriage to Olga (Monique van de Ven) by picking up a series of women for casual sex and treating them callously afterwards. But soon he realises that his feelings for Olga aren't so easily dispelled. We flash back two years to his first meeting with Olga. They are strongly attracted to each other, despite the opposition of Olga's mother (Tonny Huurdeman).
   As the above suggests, Turkish Delight (Verhoeven's second film, and quite some advance on Business Is Business) is not a film that pays any regard to those of tender sensibilities. Some might suggest that the scene where Eric examines the contents of an un-flushed toilet an appropriate metaphor for the entire film. Turkish Delight was pretty strong stuff for 1973 (if anything more candid than the roughly contemporary Last Tango In Paris and Don't Look Now). If anything, this film is a little more even-handed in its depiction of the central relationship than Last Tango: there's considerable nudity, much of it full frontal, but it's of both sexes. It's still a male film, though (based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Jan Wolkers, that features on Dutch exam syllabuses): the major flaw is that Olga as a character often doesn't make sense, as if being a creature of whim and caprice is sufficient. Some scenes don't work, and the final half hour brings to the fore a sentimentality that has been lurking all along under the film's hard-boiled surface. At times the frankness tips over into prurience: the emphasis on bodily functions becomes wearying, and Verhoeven never misses an opportunity to point the camera up women's miniskirts.
   You have to commend the two leads for their quite uninhibited performances. Without doubt, if Verhoeven had cast anyone who lacked Hauer's looks and charisma as Eric, the film would be much harder to watch. (Incidentally, the subtitles and end credits spell the character name with a C, but in the scene where he draws a picture of his own penis as a post-shag souvenir, it is spelled 'Erik'.) Van de Ven is considerably alluring, but is handicapped by the shortcomings of the characterisation, and in some scenes verges on hysteria. Verhoeven and his cinematographer Jan de Bont (now also a director, and married to van de Ven) shoot in a style influenced by the French New Wave, with handheld cameras and natural light. Quick cutting keeps up a brisk pace, although there are some lapses. The score (jazzy early 1970s stuff, with a whistling main theme) dates the film more than anything else.
   Turkish Delight was cut by the BBFC in 1973, a few seconds from the garrotting scene early on (which, like the opening scene, turns out to be a revenge fantasy), which considering what else is in this film, was a remarkably liberal decision. All previous video releases (and showings on Film Four) were of that cut version, but Tartan's release in their Verhoeven collection has had the footage reinstated. According to the BBFC, the film had simultaneous releases from two distributors, under different titles (the present one and The Sensualist, presumably subtitled and dubbed versions), and there was a video release along the way as Wild Intent. Turkish Delight was generally shown, and reviewed, in Britain as softcore porn. In the US, it had an art house release, and was nominated for the Oscar as Best Foreign Language film. It is still the biggest-grossing Dutch film in history.
   Tartan's DVD has an anamorphic picture in the correct ratio and the Dutch soundtrack in Dolby digital 2.0 mono. The extras comprise the trailer, filmographies for Verhoeven, Hauer, and van de Ven, film notes by Jonathan Carter, and trailers for six other films in Tartan's World Cinema line.
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