Saturday, November 19, 2016

Paul Verhoeven and Robocop (1987) at Lincoln Center's Total Verhoeven

Lincoln Center is in the midst of a retrospective of all Paul Verhoeven’s films. While he is doing interviews and introductions connected to the films the only full Q&A was going to be with Robocop. Wanting to hear the man speak at length I got tickets and went with Hubert.

Introducing the film Verhoeven called it biblical (he would later explain that the death and resurrection of Murphy was based on Christ, with his minimal dialog mirror Jesus’s similar lack of talk when he returned). He also said that he didn’t want to do the film, not finishing the script the first time through. He only would pick up the film because his wife insisted.

Really seeing the movie for the first time in a decade it’s surprising how little has dated. Yes the technology has shifted- we don’t have tube TVs anymore and the computer images are light years behind what we have now, but otherwise the film is still very much of the moment. While part of the reason for the film not dating is that it is cultural touchstone, the film for the most part plays well now. In an age of computer enhancement the practical effects are shocking. There is a visceralness to the blood and gore. While I really noted how many problems there are with the plot it moves like the wind so you don’t have to time to think about it.

After the film Verhoeven sat down with Dennis Lim and spoke for about 35 minutes. Strangely the film was focused on Robcop. I would have thought it would have wandered all over the place. It didn’t. Only Starship Troopers, which played after, was really discussed about it’s fascist politics in connection with Robocop’s bleak outlook. (and somehow in there Verhoeven threw in the statement that Jesus wasn’t a fascist)

Much of the rest of the talk was focused on shooting Dallas (he wanted to have the lights of one building in the film but the film wasn’t lit during the entire shoot), the suit (which he said as Rob Bottin’s idea) and the script (which he said was all there and he didn’t change). Verhoeven said that the film worked because he had the right people around him and that he gets the credit for the work of others. The only thing he said he did was edit the TV stuff into the film instead of having it on TV screens and bringing a sense of humor to it.

I’m sure that Verhoeven had said all of this before but it was nice to be there and see and hear him tell the stories.

When it was done Hubert and I ducked into a reception for Verhoeven held by the Film Society. While Hubert and I talked to each other Verhoeven talked with a bunch of fans signing autographs and taking pictures. Casper Van Dien (who is much smaller than I thought a Tarzan would be) acted as a ringmaster shuttling people toward the director. It was a joy to watch the man truly engage with the fans who approached him. The connection and the intensity he showed was something special and on a genuine level few celebrities ever manage. After a bit Verhoeven and Van Dein went into do the intro to Starship Troopers. Van Dein returned a few moments later to bark out that we were all invited to go see the intro. Hubert and I waited in the gallery- hoping that when Verhoeven returned we’d get a minute with the man, but when he returned he got scooped up by friends and stayed off in a corner.

Needing to get home on a school night Hubert and I ducked out and headed home.

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