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Review: Oink (2022)

Oink (2022)

Directed by: Mascha Halberstad | 72 minutes | animation, family | Original voice cast: Hiba Ghafry, Kees Prins, Matsen Montsma, Jelka van Houten, Henry van Loon, Loes Luca, Johnny Kraaijkamp, ​​Alex Klaasen, Remko Vrijdag

Every child wants to try a pet at some point. So is Babs (Hiba Ghafry), preferably a puppy. Mother Margreet (Jelka van Houten) and father Nol (Henry van Loon) have to sleep on it for a few nights because their daughter can be quite impulsive. Then grandpa Tuitjes (Kees Prins), who suddenly arrives at the family’s doorstep all the way from America, gives Babs a piglet as a present for her ninth birthday. Babs is immediately in love and calls him Oink. Mother is a lot less pleased with Grandpa and Piglet. She is especially afraid of intruders in her vegetable garden. After all, the family is (self-sufficient!) vegetarian from head to toe. And Margreet doesn’t like that the present comes from her father, who is in fact absent. Grandpa has to stay in the garden house for the time being and Piglet can only stay if he doesn’t eat the vegetable garden or if he poops everything. Together with her good friend Tijn (Matsen Montsma), Babs tries to wash this pig.

By the way, Babs thinks grandpa Tuitjes is a strange fellow and has to get used to his accent, the cowboy hat and the banjo game by moonlight. Moreover, he is quite secretive about a large suitcase he brought with him. Grandpa himself does not care about all kinds of social hassles and the standard greenery on the dining table. In fact, he didn’t just come back to hook up with the family. After decades of absence, he also wants to create a furore at the sausage competition of the Association for Meat Products of Fresh Pigs.

If there’s one thing you don’t get from ‘Own’, it’s grumpy. What a party number! This homegrown animation film is based on the book ‘The Revenge of Knor’ by Tosca Menten. Writer Menten had not expected in her wildest dreams that this would be the result of the collaboration. Yet Menten clearly lies at the origin of the humorous and playful look at complex subjects for the everyday family. What do you actually eat when you eat meat; a father who suddenly leaves home and hearth; dog training for pigs and jokes about poop of course.

Director Mascha Halberstad has earned her stripes in the animation world with, among other things, several short films, a video clip for the band The Prodigy, and the TV series ‘Fox and Hare’ (2018 – …). ‘Own’ seems to be the culmination of the work so far. Her first feature film is both a crafty book adaptation and a visual feat. Sometimes it is also reminiscent of a plump Dutch grandnephew of ‘Fantastic Mister Fox’ (Wes Anderson, 2009); ‘Knor’ is more comical, flatter and more direct than many youth films. The poop jokes do not predominate but there is always room for them. The ensuing slight anarchy is enjoyable for anyone over the age of six. The voice actors also visibly enjoy the material. Especially Kees Prins and Loes Luca (the gruff aunt Christine) go wild on the playful (under)tone. Plus, ‘Own’ is full of mischievous movie references, including to ‘ET’ (Steven Spielberg, 1982) and ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ (George Miller, 2017) (note the tractor scenes!). Following the stop-motion masters of Aardman Animations (‘Wallace & Gromit’, ‘Shaun the Sheep’ et cetera.), Halberstad and her animation team have transformed the tangible clay into something very lively and touching on screen without going on the sentimental tour. They can compete with the best in the genre.

Every now and then the stop motion seems sluggish, as on a late summer day. This is anything but disturbing and strongly supports the dry humor and thoughtful view on social themes. And although the current state of affairs in the meat industry is neither fish nor meat, the film is not grumbling about it in terms of moralism. Could the story perhaps go deeper into certain matters such as the disappearance of grandfather Tuitjes from the life of daughter Margreet? Absolutely no man overboard here, enough wealth and perhaps it is an idea for a spectacular sequel.

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Review: Housewives Don’t Exist 2 (2019)

Housewives Don’t Exist 2 (2019)

Directed by: Aniëlle Webster | 105 minutes | comedy | Actors: Jelka van Houten, Eva van de Wijdeven, Loes Luca, Leo Alkemade, Kay Greidanus, Leopold Witte, Jim Bakkum, Fred van Leer, Tina de Bruin, Henry van Loon, Patrick Martens, Robert de Hoog, Leny Breederveld

Among the piles of romantic comedies that are released annually in our country, ‘Housewives don’t exist’ (2017) stood out in a positive way two years ago. Not because the story was so brilliantly put together or original, but because of the appealing characters who struggled with issues that all women have (had) to deal with. Recognition was the great asset, in addition to the strong acting by leading actresses Jelka van Houten, Loes Luca and Eva van de Wijdeven. The film was based on ‘The Housewife Monologues’, the 2013 novel by writer and columnist Sylvia Witteman – who, incidentally, did not receive the credits on the credits – which Rick Engelkes translated to first the theater and later the silver screen. And now there’s ‘Housewives Don’t Exist 2’ (2019), not so much a sequel but a film that follows the same three women in their everyday existence, only now a few years later. The screenplay is again by Richard Kemper (‘Veldhuis & Kemper’) and the director is Aniëlle Webster, who was also responsible for the first film and who has had a busy year; two months ago, another Dutch romkom directed by her was released, ‘Wat is then Liefde’ (2019).

In ‘Pets do not exist 2′ we can once again take a look at the life of flower power mother Loes (Loes Luca) and her daughters Marjolein (Jelka van Houten) and Gijsje (Eva van de Wijdeven). Loes also has (young) male attention not to complain but is starting to get a little tired of tinder. The generation gap with boys like Boy (Robert de Hoog), who is at least half as young, is now really noticeable and Loes is actually beginning to long for someone her own age. When Bernd (Leopold Witte), a self-help book writer and self-proclaimed life coach, crosses her path, she’s sold. Gijsje is now the mother of a son, but is still a perfectionist and ambitious. She has her boyfriend Jasper (Kay Greidanus) firmly under her thumb and she is also in control of the advertising agency where she works. Her agency appears to be in the running for an important award and that only puts Gijsje on edge. But whether her environment is so happy about that…? Marjolein happily dabbles with her three children and her blog about life as a housewife and mother. However, she gets upset when she reads mysterious messages from a woman on her husband’s phone. Is her Huib (Leo Alkemade) having an affair? The fire in their relationship has cooled down quite a bit, so she first tries to stoke things up with exciting (but rather complicated) lingerie and sex toys, but that only backfires. So she decides to follow Huib. What she then finds does not make her happy to say the least…

We all just do whatever, that’s the underlying motto of ‘Housewives don’t exist’ (both part 1 and part 2!). It’s about women who look like ourselves, or someone we know. Women who try to keep all balls high, who run a family and a household, who also work (and want to be taken seriously in their work), who want to be there for their partner, family and friends. There must also be exercised in between and that all has to be done with a smile. ‘Housewives don’t exist 2’ doesn’t make fun of it, but holds up a mirror to women: see yourself slogging and struggling. One (Gijsje) desperately tries to maintain the perfect picture (certainly towards the outside world), the other (Marjolein) has long since let go of that ideal image and is bumbling through life. And Loes, who always led a licentious life, comes to the realization that in retrospect she might have done things differently. These are women who could have been your neighbor. They are also played wonderfully by Van de Wijdeven, Van Houten and Luca. Van Houten in particular is on a roll; she has the best one-liners and is great at shooting herself. In these kinds of roles, she is certainly not inferior to her famous older sister Carice. The supporting roles are also nicely filled in, with Alkemade as the sometimes somewhat silly Huib and Fred van Leer and Patrick Martens as a gay couple befriended by Marjolein, who makes a crucial contribution in the final act. In even smaller roles we see Henry van Loon, Jim Bakkum, Tina de Bruin, Leny Breederveld, Sabri Saad El-Hamus and screenwriter Richard Kemper, among others.

‘Housewives don’t exist 2’ doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel and is occasionally guilty of trite jokes (the situation with the sex toy, for example, was not necessary), but just like the first part, this film also offers a celebration of recognition for women in general and mothers in particular. Realistic characters, portrayed by three outstanding actresses. Let yourself be dragged into the lives of Marjolein, Loes and Gijsje and worry and wrestle with them. Just the realization that you are not the only one who is always and eternally looking for peace, overview and balance in your life is a reassuring realization!

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Review: Mivida (2019)

Mivida (2019)

Directed by: Norbert ter Hall | 88 minutes | drama | Actors: Loes Luca, Elvira Mínguez, Loïc Bellemans, Mark Kraan, Fermi Reixach, Jason Mba, Anniek Pheifer, Diewertje Dir, Ida Ogbamichael, Eugenia Verdu, Bella Agossou, Verónica Echegui

‘Mi vida’ was a dream project for director Norbert ter Hall (TV series “A’dam – EVA”, ‘&Me’). In a diary written for Het Parool we read how much effort it took him to bring this project to a successful conclusion despite almost Terry Gilliam-like setbacks. There is a nice double layer in it, because that is exactly what ‘Mi vida’ is about: making your dreams come true.

Lou (Loes Luca) has just arrived in Cadiz, a port city in the south of Spain. The hairdresser from Schiedam needs a new direction in her life and so she has decided to sell her hairdresser’s shop and take a Spanish course in the place where you can learn a new language best. Lou has a mountain of life experience at 63, which makes her insecure attitude all the more endearing. Uncomfortably she moves into the small room with a busy Spanish family, where the children look at her with suspicion and the lady of the house finds it strange that she is so old. “Usually the students are younger”.

At the first Spanish lesson, Lou gets… er… Spanish stuffy when it turns out that the lesson for beginners is already given entirely in Spanish. There is a bit of a clash between her and the haughty teacher, but that turns out to be just a facade: Andrea is actually the same as Lou, but ten years younger… a woman with many unfulfilled dreams and hopes for the future.

The two women slowly grow closer and with that friendship, Lou’s desire to really change course grows. But when her pregnant daughter (Anniek Pheifer) unexpectedly visits Cádiz, doubt strikes again. Was Lou a good mother? Didn’t her work always come first? Isn’t it about time she fixes her past mistakes?

‘Mi vida’ is a nice, warm film about chasing your dreams, the views of how others think you should live your life and how easy it is to give in to those expectations of others. Lou was stuck in her role as mother and grandmother, because that’s what was expected of her, but does that make her happy? It is an honest portrait of a woman who, after so many years, still struggles to cut the figurative umbilical cord; fair also because, apart from the first half hour, Lou shows herself as she is. Unadorned, human, real. A short fragment in which she checks her breasts for lumps in front of the mirror is subtle and daring and says enough about the entire history of this sympathetic woman.

Loes Luca is a joy to watch. Her co-star Elvira Mínguez, in a role that director Norbert ter Hall had actually assigned to regular Pedro Almodóva actress Rossy de Palma, also shines in her portrayal of the temperamental Andrea. You might think that this film about middle-aged women is only suitable for that target group, but nothing could be further from the truth. The universal theme is presented convincingly and naturally, so that ‘Mi vida’ is recommended for anyone with an interest in serious cinema.

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Review: De Fabeltjeskrant: the Great Animal Forest games (2018)

De Fabeltjeskrant: the Great Animal Forest games (2018)

Directed by: Freek Quartier, Jens Møller | 83 minutes | animation, family | Original voice cast: Georgina Verbaan, Elsje Scherjon, Armin van Buuren, Richard Groenendijk, Loes Luca

Nostalgia can be a thing. What was incredibly fun and good in your head, can’t stand the test of time well. After a viewing, your childhood heroes turn out to be insufferable empty heads years later. To transport beloved characters from bygone times to the present requires a major metamorphosis. And a critical eye.

Take the Fabeltjeskrant for example. In the 80s, static puppet dolls were still acceptable, but in 2019 you can’t get around that anymore. Modern children want smooth figures with wild hand gestures and an ADHD attitude. Director Freek Quartier has managed to successfully and respectfully bring a much-loved but quite corny franchise to the present day.

In ‘De Fabeltjeskrant: de Grote Dierenbos-spelen’ old-timers such as Juffrouw Ooievaar, Bor de Wolf, Lowieke de Vos and Truus de Mier trot out. A lot is happening in the Grote Dierenbos. For example, a picnic threatens to fall into the water, there is cheating during a sports match and a foreign guest causes a stir.

This film is a nice, modern update to the beloved hand puppets. Computer animation has been used and it is convincing on all fronts. The characters look like they are made of felt. The busy movements are completely contemporary and actually suit all figures. What makes the idea behind De Fabeltjeskrant so nice is that all animals refer to character traits in people. Bor is an insecure type who feels misunderstood rather quickly. Miss Stork, on the other hand, is an authoritarian character who is as stubborn as he is stubborn. Problems that arise are only solved by talking to each other. Communication as the key to success: a beautiful message in a beautiful film.

The minimalistic rendering of the Grote Dierenbos is also a beautiful ode to the old, handmade decors of yesteryear. The voice acting is also well done and is a nice tribute to the old series. Quartier has made a smooth film that will delight old and new fans alike. Great performance! The Fabeltjeskrant can last for years in this form!

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Review: Baantjer: The beginning (2019)

Baantjer: The beginning (2019)

Directed by: Arne Toonen | 111 minutes | action, crime | Actors: Waldemar Torenstra, Tygo Gernandt, Lisa Smit, Fedja van Huêt, Robert de Hoog, Jelka van Houten, Ruben van der Meer, Horace Cohen, Guido den Broeder, Peter Bolhuis, Ryanne van Dorst, Loes Luca, Mads Wittermans, Bas Keijzer Tim Murck, Lindsay Zwaan, Wing Poon, Peter Rene, Niels Nijsmans, Jorn Pronk

If there’s one thing that’s been on the rise in the film world in recent years, it’s the origin story. People apparently need more depth from their heroes. It’s nice to learn how the development of their beloved character has gone. Batman, Hannibal Lecter, Darth Vader, the X-Men, we’ve all been able to see them all in their younger days, which helps us understand the character even better. So it’s a good idea to give Dutch favorite detective, De Cock, some background. Director Arne Toonen set to work with the screenplay written by Willem Bosch, Carl Joos and Thijs Römer and cast Waldemar Torenstra in the lead role.

‘Baantjer het Begin’ is set around the coronation of Princess Beatrix in the spring of 1980. Thirty-year-old Jurre de Cock has successfully applied for a position at the Warmoesstraat police station in Amsterdam. He is paired up with seasoned police officer Tonnie Montijn (Tygo Gernandt) and while the two get along, they are diametrically opposed in terms of how the job should be done. De Cock is brimming with ambition and good intentions, Montijn likes to make things as easy as possible for himself and has acquaintances and friends everywhere, including in the Amsterdam underworld.

According to their boss, the chance of an attack during the coronation is very high and all agents must do everything they can to ensure that the ceremonies run smoothly. But the overzealous De Cock discovers a corpse in the canal, creating a snowball effect. Although the traces point to a large drug trade and that is actually not that much of a priority right before the coronation, the two detectives manage to investigate the case further.

‘Baantjer the beginning’ looks away wonderfully. The film is smooth and dynamic and the atmosphere is very well struck. You immediately imagine yourself in the Amsterdam of the eighties, whether or not you consciously experienced that period. The city is filthy and infested with drug addicts, whore runners and squatters. The film is based on the tension between De Cock and Montijn and there are hardly any other actors in these roles: Waldemar Torenstra has exactly the right appearance; you immediately believe that he wants to improve the world and will do anything for it. However, he is not dull and good, because when Tonnie’s sister Pien comes into the picture, De Cock shows himself from a different side. Tygo Gernandt is also excellently cast. He plays a character (always dressed in Bill Cosby-esque sweaters and with a bold accent) who, thanks to his charm, easily wraps you around his fingers, while at the same time you have the feeling that he doesn’t show the back of his tongue. Can you trust him?

Unfortunately, ‘Baantjer het begin’ loses focus a bit in the last part, but the film nevertheless remains fascinating. With this reboot, Baantjer is ready to engage a new generation. The original TV series (based on the books by Appie Baantjer) ran for no less than twelve seasons. It remains to be seen whether the cast and crew will want to stay connected to this project for that long, but if the announced series is as entertaining as this film, the audience will certainly be happy to watch it.

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Review: Yes Sister, No Sister (2002)

Yes Sister, No Sister (2002)

Directed by: Pieter Kramer | 100 minutes | comedy, musical | Actors: Loes Luca, Tjitske Reidinga, Waldemar Torenstra, Edo Brunner, Lennart Vader, Beppe Costa, Paul Kooij, Paul de Leeuw, Frits Lambrechts, Pierre van Duijl, Raymonde de Kuyper, Trudy de Jong, Trudie Lute, Olga Zuiderhoek, Henk Stuurman , Henny Westerveld, Ad Knippels, Koos van der Knaap, Guus Dam, Joep Onderdelinden, Arjan Ederveen, Dylan Aziz, Jorgo Dimitriu, Gamze Güleç, Braz Keur, Loulou Keppy, Dorijn Curvers, Han van Eijk, Jody Pijper, Dian Senders, Ingrid Simons, Reinder van der Naalt

Whether you were born in the 1960s or before, or were born later, chances are you’ve never heard of “Yes sister, no sister.” Anyone who is even remotely aware of Dutch culture in the last century will have at least seen this title. This television series was written by the already legendary Annie MG Schmidt and famous faces such as Hetty Blok, Leen Jongewaard, Albert Mol and Barrie Stevens had a regular role. The catchy songs (which Annie MG Schmidt co-wrote with Harry Bannink) that immediately get stuck in your head and the comedic entanglements surrounding the retirement home that the series revolves around, the popularity of the series grew during the years that it was broadcast (1966 -1968) huge. Fate has it that the episodes were shot on a then-new and expensive video system, Ampex. Because the tapes were so pricey, the recordings were erased for reuse after the broadcast. So there is no longer a single episode of the series. Unbelievable when you think about it, but it undoubtedly contributed to the iconic status of “Yes sister, no sister”.

In 2002 a whole new generation was introduced to Sister Klivia, the angry neighbor Boordevol and all the residents of the retirement home through the feature film ‘Yes sister, no sister’. Pieter Kramer (director) and Frank Houtappels (script) already had experience bringing the old material to life, because they were also responsible for the stage version of JZNZ (1999).

‘Yes, sister, no sister’ is a musical comedy and because of the musical setting the events are slightly outside our reality. The cast goes along completely, and puts their characters on high, with exaggerated gestures and intonations. The story is simple: in the retirement home of sister Klivia (Loes Luca with a genuine Groningen accent, as an ode to Hetty Blok) dancer Jet (Tjitske Reidinga), Bobby (Lennart Vader), Bertus (Edo Brunner) and the engineer (Beppe Costa). The house is sublet by neighbor Boordevol (Paul R. Kooij) and he soon finds that too much noise is being made. At the slightest thing, he takes Sister Klivia to justice, but so far he has not been able to drive off the troublemakers. When Jet meets the charming Gerrit (Waldemar Torenstra) in the street, he follows her home after a song and a dance in the rain and he can’t get her out of his mind. Because he is a burglar, he manages to gain easy access to the retirement home in the evening, but Sister Klivia catches him. Gerrit also becomes a permanent resident of the retirement home, but when neighbor Boordevol hears that a burglar now lives next door, he seizes the opportunity to bully the neighbors away. But in the meantime, the engineer has invented a remedy that makes bad people good… he just can’t test it on people…

For the generation that has seen the TV series, ‘Yes sister, no sister’ is a feast of recognition. But also newcomers – provided they are up for camp – will enjoy the joviality that this musical pours out on the viewer. The songs are the beating heart of the film, the screenplay is skilfully woven around it. Classics such as ‘Don’t bang the doors’, ‘My grandpa’ and ‘Would you like a cutting of the fuchsia’ pass by and the choreography is delicious. Also kudos to the art direction: the sets and clothing are colorful and exuberant. ‘Yes, sister, no sister’ will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for lovers of genuine Dutch camp this film is a bull’s eye.

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Review: The Matchmaker (2018)

The Matchmaker (2018)

Directed by: Jeroen Houben | 92 minutes | comedy, drama | Actors: Ariane Schluter, Benja Bruijning, Eva van de Wijdeven, Loes Luca, Kasper van Kooten, Georgina Verbaan, Annet Malherbe, Sanne den Hartogh, Slimane Dazi, Gene Bervoets, Xander van Vledder, Leny Breederveld, Hajo Bruins, Kees Hulst, Romana Peace, Leopold Witte

Ariane Schluter and Benja Bruijning play mother Marja and son Chris in the new Dutch feel-good film ‘De matchmaker’. The relationship between the two is not very good. Chris is a photographer and travels the world. This means that he is never home to maintain his family ties. He therefore attaches little value to this. When Mother’s sixtieth birthday approaches and the shooting yields little money, Chris is forced to return home. The small typical Dutch village is soon too small if everything turns out to be the same as when he once left. Chris wants to leave as soon as possible, so a new job to make a promo for a matchmaking website is just right. Since the mother is still single after the death of her husband after years, she seems to be a perfect subject for the film. However?

In itself, ‘The matchmaker’ is a very solid film. All players act well. All characters are portrayed convincingly through natural and balanced play. Still, it seems as if the scenario falls short. Somehow the film lacks some kind of flow. It seems as if the important moments are rushed by and the less important moments are smeared out. This means that the heart of the film (what the film is really about) seems to be getting lost. The story is clear and the characters are also clearly portrayed: the selfish and immature Chris, the “too good for this world” mother and the sister with a fear of contamination (Georgina Verbaan). The properties are reflected in the sets, rooms and actions as an extension of the characters. But despite the characters and motives being crystal clear, there is a lack of connection. Main character Chris (despite Bruijning’s natural charm) barely wins the sympathy of the audience. His selfishness and indifference are emphasized in such a way that as an audience you don’t really like his character much. A few moments of gentleness or remorse would not have been superfluous. This means that the excellent acting of the actors cannot only support the film.

For a feel-good film that pretends to be ‘The Matchmaker’, there is a lot of Dutch sobriety. There is certainly a certain kind of humor in the film and the expected happy ending, but due to the naivety of the main character, the warm feeling in the gut that you would expect from a feel-good film is missing. ‘The matchmaker’ is a bit between a comedy and a drama. The humor doesn’t always seem well-timed and the drama is always canceled out by Chris’s callousness. This means that the sensitive nerve is never touched, or that the laughing muscles are really put to work. All this in itself is not bad, but does not meet the expectations of “feel good”.

‘The matchmaker’ is a decent film, but without excesses. The acting of the actors is more than fine, but the warm feel-good feeling is not there. Despite the fact that we Dutch have already proven ourselves in this genre, this film will probably not stay with us for very long.

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Review: Housewives Don’t Exist (2017)

Housewives Don’t Exist (2017)

Directed by: Aniëlle Webster | 103 minutes | comedy | Actors: Eva van de Wijdeven, Jelka van Houten, Kay Greidanus, Jim Bakkum, Leo Alkemade, Loes Luca, Waldemar Torenstra, Fred van Leer, Richard Kemper

Exploding laundry baskets, changing beds, children’s treats and sick husbands; just a few subjects discussed in ‘De Huisvrouwmonologen’, the 2013 novel by columnist Sylvia Witteman. For many women with a family and a job, it is a feast of recognition. Not long after the book was published, Rick Engelkes (Doctor Simon from ‘Good times, bad times’) adapted the story into the eponymous – and very successful – theater performance. And now there is a film, ‘Housewives don’t exist’ (2017), also produced by Engelkes, based on a screenplay by comedian Richard Kemper (the one by Veldhuis & Kemper). Curiously enough, Witteman’s name is nowhere mentioned on the poster, while it is really the housewives she has created who are central. And let the characters be the funniest aspect in this comedy directed by Aniëlle Webster (‘Mees Kees along the line’, 2016).

Loes (Loes Luca) has always led a riotous life; men came and went, she liked to let money flow and she left the care of her daughters mainly to her mother. Now that she’s over sixty, she still lives that way. But the bottom of the well is quickly coming into view: the house in which she lives is under water and the bailiffs are at the door. Not that Loes is going to worry right away. Her now grown daughters Marjolein (Jelka van Houten) and Gijsje (Eva van de Wijdeven) do that for her. However, they have their own problems. The chaotic Marjolein is married to Huib (Leo Alkemade) and mother of three growing children. She also works as a journalist for a regional newspaper. Or well, worked. Because the film has barely started when Marjolein is fired. She has no choice but to temporarily focus entirely on the role of a housewife and now go to the activities of her children at school. But the life of a housewife is not so easy. Gijsje has her life in perfect order: she has a dear boyfriend (Kay Greidanus) and a good job at an advertising agency, where she has a chance to become a partner if she comes up with the right campaign for a cleaning brand. In addition, partly thanks to her fear of contamination, she always has her house in perfect order: the beds are always made clean and the crumbs are swept up after every bite of food. However, she desperately longs for a baby and that is taking over her life more and more.

The worries of these three women, and their mutual bond, are the common thread in ‘Housewives don’t exist’, a film that does not necessarily excel in originality, but in recognisability. As a viewer, we can look into the lives of Loes, Gijsje and Marjolein and we ended up in situations that are sometimes embarrassing, sometimes hilarious and sometimes painful and confrontational. The humor is mainly due to Jelka van Houten, who seems to have a patent on the role of the average housewife, averse to any form of glamour, but therefore oh so approachable and recognizable for the target group. Don’t we all fear the blunders she makes in the schoolyard, where she previously rarely showed herself because of her job, but where she now has to cope with the perfect model mothers (here portrayed by Victoria Koblenko) and charming fathers (Waldemar Torenstra). As Gijsje, Van de Wijdeven represents a different, very recognizable group of women. In order to fulfill her wish to have children, she works purposefully (but with a towel on the freshly changed sheets). Which by the way leads to the most hilarious scene in the entire film, when she has to look for a jar for her boyfriend’s cum in a rather awkward situation. The film hints that Gijsje’s extremely controlled behavior is a result of her frivolous upbringing, and that there is therefore some resentment towards her mother, but that deeper layer does not really shine through.

‘Housewives don’t exist’ works best as an anthology of what the modern woman experiences in the field of relationships, children, work and family. Of course, here and there a little heavier for the film – Jim Bakkum, as Gijsje’s colleague, takes off his shirt more than once to promote a new cleaning product – but there will be very few women who cannot identify with Loes, Marjolein or Gijsje. The moral of the story is that all those other women do whatever they want, and you just have to laugh at the chaos that our lives usually are. ‘Housewives don’t exist’ has a great asset in the three protagonists, who without any problems alternate the hilarity with sincere emotions and all three convince in their roles. Sure, sometimes it’s over the top, but they get away with it easily. The film may have few surprises in store, but it is certainly entertaining.

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Review: The Marathon (2012)

The Marathon (2012)

Directed by: Diederick Koopal | 110 minutes | comedy, drama | Actors: Mimoun Oaïssa, Dragan Bakema, Georgina Verbaan, Loes Luca, Marcel Hensema, Frank Lammers, Martin van Waardenberg, Stefan de Walle, Joy Wielkens, Manuel Broekman, Ariane Schluter, Cynthia Abma

Your ‘running all the way around the house’ is not for everyone, as it turns out. Four men, purebred Rotterdammers, have to run the marathon. A marathon is of course a difficult task for anyone, but since the men have not had much more exercise than the walk to the fridge for years, it is very difficult. In fact, it seems so impossible for the ‘fat and ugly men’ to do it that a bet is placed: Houssein’s Occasions is willing to pay 40,000 euros if the men run the marathon. With this money one of the sportsmen, Gerard, can pay off all his debts and his garage has been saved, and with it the jobs of the men. However, if they don’t make it, Houssein’s garage is.

Yousoef, also an employee at the Garage, is renamed ‘trainer’ and prepares the men for the big test in six months. At least that’s what he tries. At the first training attempt, the men come back puking after just a minute, and the cyclist’s thirst is quenched with beer. The cigarettes are immediately lit again and the frikadels are already in the deep-fat fryer. Eventually the seriousness of the situation begins to dawn, and then the men start training seriously. The women don’t like it, who complain that the man no longer drinks beer, no longer eats moorheads, and no longer looks after his model trains; “You’re just running!”

Between all the laughter that ‘The Marathon’ produces, there is also depth. Gerard, played by Stefan de Walle, has terminal cancer, but doesn’t dare to tell anyone. Leo (Martin van Waardenburg) is forced to care for his wife’s neglected child, and so each character has its own story. Those sub-stories are subtly incorporated into the film, and on one occasion the entire story is even told in a single shot. This ultimate subtlety gives ‘The Marathon’ a very broad depth, which gives all the characters an extra layer.

‘The Marathon’ is the first film by director Diederick Koopal, who we already know from his earlier work. He is in fact an advertiser, known for the best commercials on the television: namely from the Supermarket Manager of that blue-and-white chain, from the Ski Instructor ‘Biertjeh?’ and many others. The film world had great confidence in him, he got the very best and nicest Dutch actors. Apparently advertising is a good exercise for making films, because ‘The Marathon’ has been very successful. Koopal’s way of filming makes even the worst joke joke a moment to laugh out loud. The pace is good, the fun, sad and serious moments alternate in such a way that it never gets boring. The soundtrack is also so nice, with wonderful musical moments throughout the film. The smile you have after watching ‘The Marathon’ will last for at least two more days.

Categories
English Reviews

Review: My French Aunt Gazeuse (1996)

My French Aunt Gazeuse (1996)

Directed by: Ben Sombogaart, Joram Lürsen | 325 minutes | drama, comedy, family | Actors: Afroditi-Piteni Bijker, Caroline van Gastel, Boris Stoikoff, Walter Crommelin, Hanneke Riemer, Nelly Frijda, Willeke van Ammelrooy, Loes Luca, Hans van den Berg, Chris Bolczek, Anita Menist, Joop van Zijl

Both Ben Sombogaart and Joram Lürsen already have an enormous track record when it comes to appealing films for young and old. Both directors have made many gems in the history of Dutch youth films and series, such as “Otje” (1998), ‘In Oranje’ (2004), ‘The Secret’ (2010) (Lürsen) and ‘My father lives in Rio ‘ (1989), ‘The pocket knife’ (1992) and ‘Pluk van de Petteflet’ (2004) (Sombogaart). They combined their talents for the television series “My French aunt Gazeuse” (1996), based on an original screenplay by Burny Bos and Tamara Bos. The result may be there for sure. In thirteen episodes of 25 minutes we sympathize with the family of Katootje Tekelenburg and the battle for the prize of the neatest family in the Netherlands.

Katootje (Afroditi-Piteni Bijker) is a girl of about eight years old. She’s not very happy. Her parents Martine and Barend (Hanneke Riemer and Walter Crommelin) are very strict and live according to Emmy Gee’s book Het ABC, which contains everything about etiquette. For example, Katootje is not allowed to have a pet, even though she would prefer to have one. Everything should always – without exception – be neatly clean and tidy, not really an environment for a child to grow up in. But her parents don’t realize that… And unfortunately for Katootje, that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon, because the village where she lives, Droogbaak, happens to be the neatest, most civilized municipality in the Netherlands. That is why, on Spic-and-span day, the Queen will visit the neatest family in the Netherlands. The mayor of Droogbaak (Nelly Frijda) has launched a competition to determine who that will be. Katootje and her parents are candidates, as is their neighbor Van Zanten (Hans van den Berg). Katootje’s parents want to do everything they can to win, but when an unexpected visitor arrives, that intention turns out to be more difficult than expected.

The sister of Katootje’s mother, Gazeuse (Caroline van Gastel), comes to stay unannounced and for an indefinite period of time. And she’s also accompanied by her French fiancé, OJ of the Loire (Boris de Bournonville). Gazeuse and OJ are polar opposites of their hosts in everything. They enjoy life, each other and don’t worry about clutter. Katootje loves that they are there, but Katootje’s father is especially annoyed by his bold sister-in-law and the inventor who does not speak a word of Dutch. Things often go wrong, but usually OJ saves the day with one of his strange, far-fetched but always working inventions.

Each episode has fixed, recurring elements. It always starts with Katootje writing in her diary, after which she looks back at the events of the past few days. Every episode, neighbor Van Zanten – who is invariably called by his mother on his mobile (one of the first models!) – tries to sabotage things in his favor, which does not always go well for him. And every episode the mayor of Droogbaak comes by to make the latest announcements. In addition to the TV series, a movie was also made, which flopped quite a bit. There’s also too much going on to tell all this in the time span of an average feature film and each episode also contains a musical number, with humorous lyrics and catchy music (Peace, cleanliness, regularity; Garlic that’s batsiedakkie; Marry me; The French dinner song; The Boy Next Door; Praise to Mayor’s Bitterball; Rock Song; The Civilized Breakfast Round; The Laughing Death; Whisper Song; Babbler Chanson; I Am a Plane and Queen’s Song), which reportedly did not make the film version.

The characters are well developed and although you can guess the ending, a lot of unexpected things happen. The screenplay contains funny puns and the acting is perfectly fine. What is striking is that Katootje as an actress does not have a lot of text, we hear her voice more often in voice-over than when she conducts a dialogue. But it does fit well with her brooding character. “My French Aunt Gazeuse” is unadulterated childhood sentiment for children growing up in the 1990s, but if the series passed you by at the time, that’s a good reason to watch this family series together with your children. That household will come later.