Right around the time that the star actress of the Dutch WWII film Black Book -- in which she plays a Jewish woman cozying up to the Nazis as a pretend gentile in order to help the resistance -- takes a careful moment to put blonde hair dye on certain more private parts of her body, one suddenly remembers, ah yes, Paul Verhoeven is directing this, isn't he? It's a pity that as a director, Verhoeven's instincts trend so adamantly toward the punishingly crass, because he had in his hands the root of quite a good film here, a thoughtful thriller that can ultimately be seen only in occasional glimpses.
Quite the best thing Verhoeven has going for him is his fantastic Dutch cast, headed up by Carice van Houten in a relentlessly fearless performance as the singer Rachel Stein, who is forced into one morally compromising position after another. The film starts in 1944, when Stein has been in hiding for years, but is sent on the run after an errant Allied bomb destroys her hideout. As a former singer, she's able to take on new personas with great ease, but there's always a tough brightness about her, the statuesque ease of someone who's accustomed to being stared at and fought over.
Continue reading: Black Book Review