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The Fourth Man Review

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Gerard, a drunken gay writer, is troubled by prophetic dreams. In a seaside town on a speaking engagement, he is so stricken with lust for hunk Herman that he romances the youth’s girlfriend Christine (Renee Soutendijk), a witchlike minx who has buried t

★★★★

Though he had modest international hits with Spetters and Soldier of Orange, this was the breakthrough film for Dutch director Paul Verhoeven, landing him a Hollywood career. Now, it seems like a subtler draft of Basic Instinct as a smitten, befuddled, frankly absurd male hero is drawn inexorably into the orbit of a blonde manipulatrice who might well be a supernaturally-powered serial murderer but could equally be a total innocent who has had tragic luck with marriages.

Based on a novel by Gerard Reve, who uses his own name for the main character, it combines bizarre multi-sexual eroticism, weird religious imagery (including a crucified gay pin-up and a guest appearance by the Virgin Mary), Argento-like horror film grue (a gouged eyeball dripping from a spyhole in a hotel door) and very sly black humour. With perfectly balanced performances from Soutendijk, whose tightly-marcelled hair and blood-red lips make her an unusual satanic seductress, and Krabbé, who persists in finding decency in his astonishingly sleazy character, it unfolds as louche fantasy, with several genuinely surprising plot reversals and one or two moments of pure shock.

Like Verhoeven, both stars earned solid international careers on the strength of their work here – but arguably have never been better, Reminiscent of the films of Harry Kumel (Daughters of Darkness, Malpertuis) in its sado-erotic atmosphere, Low Countries setting and fusion of the supernatural with comedy of manners, The Fourth Man is an unusual, tasty picture that leavens audacious symbolism with wicked wit.

The darkly comic sexual obsession is complemented by Verhoeven's stylish eroticism, wild religious iconography and plentiful nudity.

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