Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

"Ridiculed" Verhoeven film picked up by Sony Classics

According the Hollywood Reporter, the new Paul Verhoeven WWII thriller Black Book—his return to Dutch filmmaking after over 20 years in Hollywood—has been picked up by Sony Pictures Classics after beating out several distributors interested in the film. While that news is notable enough in itself, the news behind the news is perhaps more intriguing. Here's the relevant passage from the Reporter piece:

The film was roundly ridiculed among distributors at the Toronto International Film Festival as "'Schindler's List' meets 'Showgirls'" (the latter film, another type of camp drama, was notoriously directed by Verhoeven)… The bad word-of-mouth was turned around a bit by some positive reviews and the Netherlands selection of the film as its official foreign language entry for this year's Academy Awards.

Advertisement

A.V. Club readers are already well aware that Black Book was one of the highlights of this year's Toronto Film Festival for Noel Murray and myself (scroll down, second-to-last paragraph). Yet it's also won raves from both Variety and, remarkably, Reporter critic Ray Bennett, who calls the film "a high-octane adventure rooted in fact with a raft of arresting characters, big action sequences and twists and turns galore." A round-up from Indiewire's Anthony Kaufman also indicted a positive reaction from those in attendance, and reaction from critics I spoke to after the screening were at least respectful, if not over-the-moon, including Time Out New York's Joshua Rothkopf, Philadelphia City Paper's Sam Adams, and The Nashville Scene's Jim Ridley. So basically, the trades loved it, all the alt-weekly critics I know loved it, and the distributors who reportedly " ridiculed" it were circling like sharks until SPC bought it for "high six figures."

So where's the hate?