“One of the great American films of the last few years. It’s Verhoeven’s best American film and his most personal. In Starship Troopers (1997), he uses various effects to help everything go down smoothly, but he’s totally exposed in Showgirls. It’s the American film that’s closest to his Dutch work. It has great sincerity, and the script is very honest, guileless. It’s so obvious that it was written by Verhoeven himself rather than Mr. Eszterhas, who is nothing. And that actress [Elizabeth Berkley] is amazing! Like every Verhoeven film, it’s very unpleasant: it’s about surviving in a world populated by assholes, and that’s his philosophy. Of all the recent American films that were set in Las Vegas, Showgirls was the only one that was real – take my word for it. I who have never set foot in the place!”
“[Together with Total Recall and Basic Instinct,] Showgirls is certainly among the three films directed in America by Paul Verhoeven which are most worthy of respect. [...] This is in fact an authentic ‘fallen woman film’ in the grand Hollywood tradition: a working-class woman’s sinful past catches up with her just as she has gained access to the world of wealth. Those 30s melodramas were theaters of forbidden pleasure and social injustice. [...] Showgirls takes mass culture seriously, as a site of both fascination and struggle. And it takes despised melodrama seriously too, as indeed an excellent vehicle for social criticism.”
“If we look again at the Depression-era Busby Berkeley showgirl musicals, we find that their ‘shows’ were always about prurient displays of bleached-blonde (chemically altered) ‘dames’ and the ambivalent moral status of a girl who earns her living by showing her body through questionable forms of dance. In Showgirls, that dance consists of lifting a bare-breasted (erect-nippled) woman out of an exploding papier-mâché volcano, a sadomasochistic black leather dance of lesbian eroticism constisting of a few provocative tribadic thrusts, and several variations of a lap dance. [...] I predict that Showgirls will reemerge one day, like Nomi and Cristal from their papier-mâché volcano, in a triumphant glory to gain the praise that it deserves.”
”It has become clear, in these last decades of decadence, decline, towering institutional violence, and rampant bad taste, that American life is stuck somewhere inside the Paul Verhoeven cinematic universe.”
“As a director, my goal is to be completely open. Just look at how I portray sex in my films. They're considered shocking and obscene because I like to carefully examine human sexuality. It has to be realistic, otherwise it is bullshit. I really like documentaries; therefore, reality is important to me when I do fiction.
It is often related to my own life, my Dutch background. The art scene in Holland has always attempted to be realistic, The Dutch painters of four hundred years ago were meticulously realistic. The example I always like to use is a marvelous painting by Hieronymus Bosch titled The Prodigal Son. It is a painting of a brothel, and in the corner is a man pissing against a wall. You would never, never find something like that in an Italian, French or English painting of that epoch. The Dutch have always been more scientific, interested in detail, certainly less idealistic and more realistic. The sex scenes in The Fourth Man and Turkish Delight were based on real experiences I had or a friend had. It's very personal. Of course, I must admit I love to shock audiences.”
Paul Verhoeven in conversation with George Hickenlooper5
- 1. Jacques Rivette and Frédéric Bonnaud, “The Captive Lover – An Interview with Jacques Rivette,” Senses of Cinema, Issue 79, September 2001. Originally published in Les Inrockuptibles, 25 March 1998. Translation by Kent Jones.
- 2. Noël Burch, “Showgirls Round Table: Embarrassing Showgirls,” Film Quarterly, Spring 2003, 35-36.
- 3. Linda Williams, “Showgirls Round Table: Showgirls & Sex Acts,” Film Quarterly, Spring 2003, 40-41.
- 4. David Roth, How “Starship Troopers” Aligns with Our Moment of American Defeat, The New Yorker, July 6 2020.
- 5. George Hickenlooper, Reel Conversations: Candid Interviews With Film's Foremost Directors and Critics, (New York: Citadel Press, 1991).