Keetje Tippel (1975)

Rating: C-

Dir: Paul Verhoeven
Star: Monique Van De Ven, Peter Faber, Mart Gevers, Rutger Hauer

First stumbled across as Hot Sweat, it was difficult to believe that this truly was its original title, as the rest of the packaging bears little resemblance to the movie, with neither Hauer nor Van De Ven bearing much resemblance to their cover pictures, and a blurb which makes it seem slightly more sleazy than I Spit On Your Grave. And it was indeed a gratuitous retitling, but it’s still of interest, if only for the number of people involved who are also known for other things: apart from Hauer, and director Verhoeven, the cinematographer was Jan de Bont, who went on to shoot Die Hard and, of course, direct Speed.

Despite these credentials, what we have here is less action film than earnest little social drama, set in Holland about the turn of the century. A family move to the town from the countryside, hoping to find a better living there. Needless to say, they don’t – it’d be a dull movie if they did – and daughter Kathy (Van de Ven) slides into a downward spiral, ending in prostitution. Luckily, this doesn’t last long: her second client is Rembrandt, who decides to use her as a model. One of his friends (Hauer – at last!) takes a fancy to her, and it all eventually ends happily.

While allegedly biographical – the author was nominated for a Nobel prize, according to a final caption – it doesn’t really ring true. Seems a tad too sanitized: take the nudity away and this could be a Sunday evening BBC serial. However, the performances are solid, Van de Ven doing a nice job in the sparky-heroine-who-won’t-give-up role, and the period atmosphere is also successfully evoked. Hauer’s role is small; his major activity is punching the stomach of a man who recognises his girlfriend from her early, ahem, career. Maybe it’s just me, but Verhoeven seems to have enjoyed this single moment of literally visceral violence…