Why Paul Verhoeven’s ‘rape comedy’ is more complicated than that

A still from the film Elle. (Mongrel Media)

The favourite film of Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven, best known as a purveyor of blockbuster sci-fi (RoboCop, Total Recall, Starship Troopers) and sleazy erotic thrillers (Basic Instinct, the so-bad-it’s-good standby Showgirls) is William Wyler’s 1959 Biblical epic Ben-Hur. Well, for the most part. “The original is fantastic until two-thirds of the way in,” says Verhoeven, in his plucky Dutch accent. “Then when it becomes about Jesus?...

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