Paul Verhoeven

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14 February 2017

Celebrating the Dutch agent provocateur ahead of the UK release of Elle.

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Dutch agent provocateur Paul Verhoeven has been a thorn in Hollywood's wholesome side ever since he first made the leap across the pond in the mid-80s and set about muddying the mainstream with his extreme productions. Awash with sex and violence, his films tread a sometimes uneasy line between satire and exploitation; a high-risk strategy that has resulted in a boom-and-bust relationship with critics and audiences.

Undaunted, at 78 years old, Verhoeven shows no sign of shying away from the controversial, with his latest effort launching the director back into the headlines. Elle is a compelling rape-revenge thriller that has been met with widespread critical acclaim, a slew of awards and has seen the filmmaker honoured as head of the international jury at Berlinale 2017.

Ahead of its UK release in March, we're revisiting Verhoeven's earlier assaults on polite sensibility. Below we've picked out a cult classic that's stood the test of time and a much-derided experiment that's ready for reappraisal. Viva Verhoeven!

Robocop

RobocopThe parallel realities of science fiction have provided Verhoeven with fertile ground to cultivate his inimitable brand of otherworldly troublemaking. Nowhere is his disruptive force felt more than in Robocop, a scathing satire of corporate America and the dystopian future of law enforcement. 30 years on, it still packs a mean punch, mercilessly hitting its targets whilst rattling off a full clip of one-liners and pulpy genre punches. Your move, creep.

Showgirls

ShowgirlsNot one for subtlety, Verhoeven's style seemingly found its soulmate in the excesses of Las Vegas - but the match was not to be. Showgirls - a backstage drama turned up to 11 that plays like a coked-up, bedazzled All About Eve - bet big and lost. Initially pilloried by critics and lukewarm with audiences, it broke the director's winning streak after the successes of Basic Instinct and Total Recall

Verhoeven didn't seem fazed, however - and, after a vibrant second life as a cult movie, the critical tide is turning on his warped rags-to-riches story that upends the American dream and leaves it to burn in the heat of the Mojave.