BR: Blue Movie / Session in Amsterdam (1971)

March 20, 2019 | By

Film: Very Good

Transfer: Very Good

Extras: Very Good

Label:  Cult Epics

Region: All

Released:  February 12, 2019

Genre:  Erotica / Drama

Synopsis: After settling into his new apartment in Bijlmermeer, a parolee with ‘social infractions’ entwines himself in the complex’s bedroom activities.

Special Features:  2 Interviews: actor-director Hugo Metsers, Jr.(11:00)  + director Wim Verstappen (11:00) from 1971 / Introduction & Interview with producer Pim de la Parra at Sex Wave Festival 2018 (18:00) / Tour of Eye Film Institute (8:00) / Promotional Materials / 4 Scorpio Films Theatrical Trailers / DVD edition.

 


 

Review:

Cult Epics’  foray into the works of Holland’s Pim de la Parra and Wim Verstappen – known affectionately as Pim & Wim – have brought rare works into circulation in North America, some probably available for the first time uncut.

The frankness within Blue Movie is quite astonishing – full frontal male & female naughty bits, with active handling & touching on camera, as filmed by a young Jan de Bont – but as de la Parra recounts to an audience at 2018’s Sex Wave Festival in France, the filmmaking writing-directing-producing team wanted their movie to smash Holland’s censorship board into oblivion (or at least hobble its sweeping powers).

As Verstappen details in a rare 1971 interview filmed prior to the film’s release, domestic productions were subject to more severe restrictions, and with Blue Movie the aim was to remove the board’s ability to restrict an industry struggling to assert itself within Europe. With financing from a German co-producer and a major cash influx from the tiny principality of Liechtenstein, the movie was shot on 35mm in a “dirty” semi-documentary style, but de Bont’s skill as a cameraman and his lighting and composition ensured the location-reliant film still looked very sensuous; the grit is there, but the colours and soft imaging are very pleasing.

Perhaps the most striking element isn’t the provocative nudity, vertical softcore sex scenes, and slightly risque leading character, but the massive apartment complex of Bijlmer / Bijlmermeer. Finished in the late 1960s, the interconnected hexagonal complex is massive, echoing both Le Corbusier’s monolithic residential towers of the future and maybe foreshadowing the massive Pruitt-Igoe designs which, like Bijlmer, was a planned community. From a bird’s eye, it’s a geo-pattern with elevated highways bisecting components,  but from a passing car, the lengthy building segments are positioned like an nearly unfolded, giant measuring ruler.

As photographed at dusk and dawn with wide angle lenses, Bijlmer’s a sleek mass of concrete, glass, steel and wooden trim. The complex was erected in what resembles (at the time of filming) a freshly reclaimed tract of land, overlooking grey nothing, and surrounded on one side by mud and open swathes of emerging green in the gaping flat areas reportedly designated as communal courtyards.

The shiny & new semi-Brutalist location suits the story: just released on parole for having sex with a 15 year old (!), Michael (Hugo Metsers) is taken to a new flat by highly optimistic parole office Eddie (nerdy Helmert Woudenberg), who’s also working on job interviews to get Michael ready for civilian reintegration. Eddie’s visits are sudden and disruptive in spite of being well-meaning, but within the first few days, Michael manages to break a mass of rules – primarily by sleeping with married women in the immediate vicinity.

To one side is Marianne (Ursila Blauth) and her older husband Bernard (Kees Brusse), a professor who’s allowed his libido to vaporize as he fixates exclusively on the social & sexual actions of monkeys; and to the other side is another couple, with Elly (Carry Tefsen) opening her arms (and legs) for Michael when he admits to peering over their balcony divider to watch the couple romp against the walls. Carrying a coffee cup and knocking on doors in search of sugar, Michael manages to enter several rooms, and sometimes passes other women using the same tactic in an apartment  block packed with oversexed inhabitants.

Eddie tries to steer Michael away from dangerous sexual fodder by combing the tenant registry for appropriate dates, and manages to find a whopping three – one of whom is an unmarried mother, and whose chance at kindling any fire below Michael’s belly button is foiled by her very single and heavily endowed sister.

de la Parra characterizes the film as a reaction against censorship by pushing the activities of characters influenced by the independence wrought from the pill, whereas Verstappen is rather rich in elevating his scenario to the antithesis of a suspense film – nudity galore, but drama and light comedy instead of the sordid S&M in Pim & Wim’s prior ode to Alfred Hitchcock, Obsessions (1969).

de la Parra also sees Blue Movie‘s finale as an affirmative statement on Michael’s inability to connect (and get a proper rise) with a woman when she’s offering love and a future. That closes the film on a grey note as to what type of sexual relationship Michael will choose, but Verstappen and Charles Gormley’s script loses plot around the hour, and doesn’t really return to the thin premise of an ex-con’s risque bed-hopping escapades.

The first hour moves from a drama about rehabilitation to a very low-key sex comedy, playing humour and behaviour low but amping up the graphic visuals. Michael does become somewhat overwhelmed by the insane opportunities in his building – even an elevator offers an epic fuckfest that annoys a mass of impatient tenants on the ground floor – but there’s always one character who approves of his ability to conquer with total confidence; in this case, the admirer is Newman (Bill van Dijk).

Michael’s trajectory shifts from neighbours to elevators to more of the Bijlmer complex, but after his last conquest, the film cuts to a series of disconnected scenes that suggest he’s running a business from his main pad. New furniture, new shag wallpaper (!), and an exclusive party or club in which the ‘right people’ are served booze & smokes, and can socialize & gather on the barrier-free balcony, or watch a kind of sex cabaret (eine Erotisch Panorama von Herr Henno Eggenkamp) in Marianne’s apartment while hubby Bernard is away lecturing.

A tragic event that befalls Newman comes out of nowhere, and Michael’s almost indifferent reaction makes the last quarter rather surreal; it’s a sign of the screenwriters running out of steam, but it also gives the film a weird calm, akin to the numbness and indifference that accompanies a hangover after a noisy late night. Verstappen’s story doesn’t have much meat, but Metsers manages to sell Michael using laid-back swagger, a stoic calm that makes affairs necessary to his existence, and a lanky physique and furry muttonchops which compliment the lithe and busty women.

Perhaps to satisfy the German producers, Marianne only converses in German in spite of Michael and Bernard interacting in Dutch; it’s weird, but it adds to the strange world that exists in the new upscale buildings which attract bed-hoppers and husbands who don’t seem to mind or care to be aware of infidelity (perhaps because they’re just as active).

Blue Movie will forever be known for its post-pill frankness, but whether by design or a practical need to exploit the riches of a restricted location, Verstappen’s film is arguably a sly satire on the government’s plan to create a futuristic world for mid- and upscale tenants: the perfect professionals sought by contemporary builders and property management firms. There may be professionals with promising and / or established careers within the walls, but Michael is the worm that exposes the orgasmic, libertine mindset of these Perfect People. The irony is that according to critics of Bijlmer, the targeted demographic didn’t want to live in towers, and refuted the ideal lifestyle in the mega-complex, which became a “no-go” zone due to crime in later years.

Once in a while there’s a continuity gaffe – the odd mic boom shadow, mic boom proper, or cameraman’s hands – but the filmmakers made excellent use of the complex, and the wide scenic shots from the balcony offer fresh air and visual scope in an otherwise indoor-locked film.

de Bont’s 16mm cinematography and the camerawork are marvelous, following characters in, out, and through tight doorways and never losing focus, and Jutta Brandstaedter’s editing is very sharp, if not seamless. The sex montages seem to have been shot to allow for camouflage as well as graphic bits (de la Parra attributes the blatant pickle shots to de Bont, who ignored the German producer’s wishes for visual modesty), and a few shots from the ‘erotic panorama’ were taken from more archival sources.

Blue Movie has greater colour depth than Obsessions, but there isn’t much gradations in blacks; the luminance may have been boosted to bring out more colour, and dark areas are more brown than clean black – a sign the films weren’t in ideal shape, but were transferred and restored just in time.

Cult Epics’ extras include an entertaining intro & Q&A with de la Parra at the Sex Wave Festival, which showcased several of Pim & Wim’s films. (One of the festival’s other Dutch titles is  Because of the Cats, a nasty little drama from 1973 which was released in a rather wretched One 7 Movies DVD as Brutalization, and starred Obsessions‘ Alexandra Stewart and Frank & Eva’s Sylvia Kristel. Perhaps that title might be in the pipeline for a formal restoration?)

de la Parra reports Paul Verhoeven is to have said he wouldn’t exist had it not been for Wim & Pim, and Verhoeven’s first film, the sex comedy Business is Business (1971), benefited from the taboos and success of the pair’s formula, and perhaps alerted him to de Bont’s artistry. de Bont and Verhoeven would collaborate on a succession of Dutch classics, including the provocative Turkish Delight (1973).

Besides the unedited Verstappen interview from 1971, there’s a new interview with Hugo Metsers Jr. on his father’s career and life with parents working on the big screen; and the irony that, had his father chosen points instead of a $10,000 acting fee, he’d have benefited from the film’s million dollar profits.

The Blu-ray also includes a publicity gallery, a visit to the Eye film archive which restored the film, and a trailer gallery featuring Pim & Wim’s Obsessions (1969), Blue Movie (1971), Frank & Eva (1973) with Kristel and Metsers, and My Nights with Susan, Sandra, Olga & Julie starring Willeke van Ammelrooy (Lift).

 

 

© 2019 Mark R. Hasan

 


 

 


 

External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDB  —  Composer Filmography
 
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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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