Criterion Prediction #69: Turkish Delight, by Alexander Miller
Title: Turkish Delight aka Turks Fruit
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Cast: Rutger Hauer, Monique van de Ven, Tonny Huurdeman, Wim van den Brink, Hans Boskamp, Dolf de Vries
Synopsis: Erik (Hauer) is an impulsive and aggressively sexual sculptor who falls in love with a young woman named Olga (de Ven). The two bohemian lovers are an inseparable duo and of course their mercurial torrent of passion is met with explosive emotional outbursts as these two freewheeling lovers fumble their way the various pitfalls of life and love while having as much sex as humanly possible.
Despite the veritable ups and downs, Erik and Olga drift in and out of one another’s lives with the passing years leading to tragedy.
Critique: Verhoeven can pace a movie like no other. The story is inconsequential in a manner of speaking, as I’m convinced that Verhoeven can shape anything into a fascinating, breakneck-paced narrative. A standard love story isn’t very appealing (let alone a “bohemian” one) but the dichotomy of Verhoeven’s stylistic prowess fills every minute of runtime and it’s his unkempt brevity that takes Turkish Delight into a tastefully subversive new territory. Verhoeven’s sexually charged realization plunges us headlong into the duality of love; Erik and Olga experience a heightened series of beautiful highs and repulsive lows. And in the tradition of relationships, we the viewers become the proverbial “third wheel” to the bombastic amour fou of our protagonists. In lesser hands, the point-blank blast of wanton carnality could be assaultive or galling but Turkish Delight is a refined experience.
It would be easy to label Verhoeven as audacious and Turkish Delight is swathed in lusty goings-on, turning our attention to the obsessive psychosis and destructive behavior love can create. Sometimes beautiful, other times cringe-worthy, and occasionally violent, Turkish Fruit doesn’t luxuriate in its matter-of-fact sexuality as Verhoeven unfurls an evenly flattering and unflattering look at intimacy; that is, depending on your definition of the term.
Hauer conveys the spirited recklessness that embodies Erik. It feels like he and Verhoeven are competitively playing off each other’s creative velocity.
Unfortunately, Hauer’s star status is likely to overshadow the performance of Monique van de Ven, who is brilliant as Olga. It’s a challenging role in a challenging film but her brazen and unrestrained screen presence is captivating.
Why it Belongs in the Collection: Let’s face it, if audiences and critics (including yours truly) are praising Verhoeven’s latest film Elle, then it’s time to reevaluate (or rediscover?) Turkish Delight as something more than a steamy cult film.
Regarding distribution, Turkish Delight doesn’t “fit” in the manifold frequency of Shout/Scream Factory’s exploitation/horror fare. After all, it’s the exploitation reputation that we want to avoid.
Twilight Time has some great titles to their name, but the limited exposure of an already lesser known film doesn’t seem like too productive of a maneuver, given that they only press 3,000 copies of their titles. Since Anchor Bay has the rights to the film I could see them restoring it for a Blu-Ray release, but shows like The Walking Dead seems to be their bread & butter.
Frankly, I’m surprised Criterion hasn’t capitalized on Verhoeven’s earlier Dutch movies. Being interested in preserving and expanding the reputation of Turkish Delight, it seems like The Criterion Collection is the best avenue for this and in the future perhaps some of his later work as well; an upgrade of Robocop would be nice. I sounded off my admiration for Soldier of Orange (Criterion Prediction #13), and Turkish Delight is a contrast to Verhoeven’s epic war yarn but these are a brilliant couple of movies.