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Not A Sin If No One Sees It

June 26th, 2011 · 1 Comment

“The interesting thing about Flesh+Blood is that when Paul was looking for music, he went to Luc Van de Ven, who has a record company, Prometheus Records, and he said, ‘What do you think, what kind of music should I use?’ and Luc played him Conan. That’s the score that took me to Paul. I think he had shown the film to James Horner and Horner said, ‘I can’t do that, it’s a terrible movie.’ And I just was, ‘I got to do it! This is the best movie I’ve ever seen in my life!’ and frankly, it really was. I loved it because I thought it was honest, and it was ruthless, and terrifyingly brutal, but what else would it be like? The whole marriage of politics and religion was brilliant.” — Basil Poledouris interviewed by Olivier Desbrosses in Ubeda, Spain, July 2006

Flesh + Blood (1985)
Directed by Paul Verhoeven
Screenplay by Gerard Soeteman & Paul Verhoeven, story by Gerard Soeteman
Produced by Gys Versluys
126 minutes

The Dutch filmmaker and cultural lightning rod’s first experience in Hollywood was not 1987’s critical and commercial sensation RoboCop. Paul Verhoeven actually made his English language directing debut two summers previous with Flesh + Blood, his first occasion to spar with the MPAA over censorship, American style. A quick release capsule of medieval death and eroticism, the film was bum rushed out of the U.S. box office, failing to launch action figures or sequels of any sort for its primary investor, Orion Pictures. Yet this relatively low budget pill holds up surprisingly well in a designer age of digital entertainment, delivering a potent kick of complex characterization, historical detail and brass balls, revving its sex and violence past legal limits in the United States.

Set in the way back of 1501 A.D., Flesh + Blood introduces a band of mercenaries receiving communion before they lay siege to a fortified city. The rabble includes an archer (Brion James), the very pregnant harlot he adores (Susan Tyrrell), a defrocked cardinal (Ronald Lacey) and various cutthroats and jezebels led by a charismatic soldier of fortune named Martin (Rutger Hauer). Promised 24 hours to ransack the homes of the rich if they can retake the city for its ousted lord Arnolfini (Fernando Hilbeck) and his captain of the guard Hawkwood (Jack Thompson), the rogues are observed by Arnolfini’s teenaged son Steven (Tom Burlinson), a cocksure engineer who aspires to the heights of Leonardo da Vinci. Victorious in battle, Martin and his band are double-crossed by Arnolfini Sr. and expelled from the city.

While Hawkwood retires to the countryside with a mute nun (Blanca Marsillach) he maimed during the invasion, Steven’s war booty arrives in the form of Agnes (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a daughter of aristocracy who enters marriage to Steven pure as the driven snow. The college boy announces he has career plans, but plans change when Martin and his marauders make off with his bride to be. More cunning than she appears, Agnes weighs her chastity against her odds of survival and throws herself at Martin sexually. This shifts the balance of power in the band, which storms a castle they fail to realize sits in a valley beset by the Black Plague. Steven coerces Hawkwood out of retirement to save Agnes, who may not be in as desperate need of rescuing as her prince believes.

Verhoeven and writing partner Gerard Soeteman had amassed medieval research dating back to their 1969 Dutch television series Floris starring Rutger Hauer. Their full throttled script for Flesh + Blood is woven with subject matter as fascinating as it is disparate: the Black Plague, piracy, 16th century mechanical engineering, Catholicism. An onslaught of debauchery that proved too flagrant for the MPAA to award an R rating without cuts, the irony of Flesh + Blood is that amid the impaled chests and bare bottoms, its characters (particularly the ladies played by Jennifer Jason Leigh and Susan Tyrrell) possess far greater humanity than the caricatures of generic Hollywood action films. The outstanding international cast is mirrored on the other side of the camera by Dutch cinematographer Jan de Bont and American composer Basil Poledouris.

Tags: Bathtub scene · Coming of age · Dreams and visions · Gangsters and hoodlums · Inventors and Tinkerers · Love Triangle · Military · Prostitute · Psychoanalysis · Sword fight · Woman in jeopardy

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Dad // Jun 26, 2011 at 7:09 am

    Proving once again the woman is more driven and deadlier of the species, a survivor. Look forward to seeing you again soon son.

    Love, Dad

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