Business Is Business (Netherlands, 1971):
(Wat Zien Ik?; Any Special Way; Diary of a Hooker)

Not nearly as anarchic as his other Dutch features, Paul Verhoeven's feature debut about life in the Amsterdam Red Light District looks as quaint today as any of that decade's slapdashly risqué romps docking in from Holland, or, for that matter, an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Accordingly, the director's liberated woman is one Blonde Greet (Ronnie Beirman), a headstrong hooker who, when not helping out her pal (Sylvia de Leur) ditch an abusive beau or falling for a married client (Piet Römer), tends to the assorted needs of a battalion of raincoat pervs. Skipping through the park, she bumps into a trick packing a briefcase bulging with feathers for his chicken fetish -- she later plays spanking mistress to a patron's frilly maid, and does teacher fetish, witch fetish, and, uh, surgery fetish. Though titilation is built into the fabric of the narrative, the film scarcely works up the libidinous charge of Verhoeven's later comedies of carnality, its sexual politics continually swamped by the blanked of labored farce. Still, the sheer boldness of Verhoeven's vulgarity, where no action (or reaction) is too insignificant to render with megaton brashness (a living room squabble morphs into an improptu gladiatorial bout), suggests a far less oppressive Ken Russell, with a more open and accepting attitude toward perversion and whoring (not an inappropriate veil for a neophyte artist just infiltrating the industry, after all). If the film is crude enough to end a relationship over loudly-crunched chocolate at an opera concert, it is also sophisticated enough not to judge its abrasive heroine for toiling the fields of human kinkiness, an area for which Verhoeven has since the beginning displayed a keen appreciation. Cinematography by Jan de Bont.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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