Keetje Tippel (1975) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Two thumbs up, but with the qualifier that you have to like this kind of historical docudrama.

It's a Dutch movie. Round up the usual suspects. 

Paul Verhoeven is directing. Rutger Hauer and Monique van de Ven star.

Actually, Verhoeven got in a little trouble with the Dutch Film Commission because he didn't have a role for Jeroen Krabbe.

As you may know, those were the only three Dutch-speaking actors in the universe at the time. Hauer and van de Ven actually had to play all the parts in this film, often changing wigs right in front of the camera.

OK, I'm kidding.  


Rutger Hauer's winkie is on display, and there is a camera shot more or less up his butt.

Walter Kous is actually seen with a full erection!

Monique van de Ven and Hannah de Leeuwe show their entire front views, from head to toe.


Although this is not at all a bad movie, it's actually one of the weaker entries among Verhoeven's later Dutch films. He made this one in between Turkish Delight and Soldier of Orange, both of which are far superior. 

The film does have a lot of positives. 

  • It is faithful to the memoirs of Neel Doof, which were nominated for a Nobel Prize. Doff is a woman who migrated as a teen to Amsterdam in 1881 with her family. As you know, there was a massive drive toward European urbanization in the 19th century, spurred by the industrial revolution. When those people arrived in the cities, they all too often found a dearth of jobs, harsh living conditions, and crime. Young women were often forced into prostitution. It was the squalor of these urban conditions that led eventually to the socialist revolutions. That's the backdrop for the story.
  • Some scenes were memorable. The opening scene, as the family prepared to sail, is magnificent. Several of the Amsterdam city shots, interior and exterior, are beautiful when they picture the life of the rich. There is a scene where our heroine rides her horse while the swells look on. This one is filmed from really interesting camera angles. There are other examples as well. Verhoeven is a talented director.
  • Lots of nudity, male and female

So what's wrong with it? Nothing. It is done well. Except that is pretty much of a docudrama. There is not much of a cinematic hook. The story tells her story in strict chronological order, drifting from her poverty, to her hatmaking, to prostitution, to her affair with a banker who had no intention of marrying her, to her emergence as a lady, to her involvement in a socialist demonstration, to her ultimate triumph as a rich woman. It is presented well, but I think you'll find it uninvolving unless you have some interest in this historical epoch. I had to fight off sleep.

If you aren't predisposed to be interested in the subject matter, it's a well photographed docudrama with very explicit male nudity, and some fairly explicit female nudity, including the beautiful van de Ven. 

Tuna's comments in yellow

Keetje Tippel (1975) is a biopic based on a series of autobiographical works by Neel Doof (1858 to 1942), who started to write late in life. She was then living in Belgium, and the books were in French, as she was more fluent by then in French than in her native Dutch. Her books were praised for their absolute honesty in describing her early life, and hence the life of the Dutch lower class at the start of the industrial revolution under the monarchy. One of the things that makes this film so interesting to me is that, true to Doof's honesty, the film is very honest. It would have been easy to romanticize, and show the peasant proletariat as friendly, good-natured, industrious and united against tyranny. Paul Verhoeven recognized that some of the poor actually react badly to a lifetime of abuse, and become unpleasant people.

Three examples come to mind. Keetje's mother is a baby factory, but seems to be breeding children for the express purpose of exploiting them, as she does with Keetje, forcing her to become a streetwalker when her older sister is fired from the whorehouse, then spends her first earnings on a sausage for herself. The second is Keetje's sister, played by Hannah de Leeuwe. An elderly customer is not pleased with his three choices of women, one of whom is Leeuwe. Keetje happens to be in the building selling hats, and Leeuwe talks her into letting the old letch fondle her thighs while Leeuwe masturbates on a sofa. Leeuwe gained a lot of weight for this part, and the masturbation scene is brilliantly photographed partly in a ceiling mirror. It is at this point that Keetje learns that her sister is a prostitute, and that she is nearly the sole support for the large family. The third example is the women who work with Keetje in a wool dyeing sweat shop. Even though they are from the same social level she is, they are very cruel to her. Also, when she sings a socialist song, they counter with a patriotic song. Despite what they are living through, they are loyal to the House of Orange.

Keetje Tippel would be properly translated Katie the Streetwalker. Monique van de Ven, as Keetje, moves quickly from streetwalker to artists model to kept woman, but it was a much more painful process for Doof. We are given a hint in the opening scene that Keetje will amount to something. She is reading Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, while her sister is screwing a sailor for a loaf of bread and some bacon. Keetje clearly has aspirations. So, in the end, the film is hopeful, even though it depicts abject poverty and the abuse of the upper class.

Something about Verhoeven's work speaks to me in a very personal way. He doesn't make films for critics, other than one of his early Dutch projects, in which he added a bunch of artsy symbolism as a joke on the critics. As predicted, the critics loved the film. He uses what he calls hyper-reality, and is not afraid to take you into the bathroom, indeed into the toilet contents, to make an impression. He loves to shock audiences. My only criticism of his work is that he manipulates audiences with misdirection, seemingly for the pure joy of it. Basic Instincts is an example of that, and is my least favorite of his films. Even those who berate Showgirls acknowledge that he does a great job with nudity, photography and art/set design. I find it interesting that so many people spend so much time criticizing Showgirls. For a "bad film," they all watch it, think about it, and spend hours writing about it.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.66:1

  • Full-length director commentary

(Scoop's note: This phenomenon occurs because the quantity written about a work indicates an extreme of quality - good or bad. The rule is that the quantity of prose declines as a film moves toward the center in quality. There are more words written about Plan 9 from Outer Space and Battlefield Earth than about Hoosiers, because they are farther from the center, but there is more written about Schindler's List or The Wizard of Oz than about Sleepless in Seattle, for the same reason - distance from the center. In fact, a great outpouring of prose is virtually prima facie evidence that a film can be found at one extreme or the other.)

In a feature length commentary, Verhoeven explains that there were not many films being made in the Netherlands while he was there, and that he always used the same people because he was familiar with them, they were always available, and they were glad for the work. I find it a very well-made film, about a topic I find interesting. The grade, however, reflects cross-over appeal, and this film has little. 

The Critics Vote

  • no opinions on line

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.7 
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+ from both reviewers. Good chronological personal history docudrama, presented well. Could be absorbing if the topic interests you, but not really a mainstream film.

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