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Made in 1975 and directed by Paul Verhoeven, Katie Tippel ("Katie the Streetwalker") is a handsome period drama set in 19th-century Holland, based on a true story. The second eldest daughter in a poor, Friesland family who move to Amsterdam, Katie (Monique Van de Ven) must find whatever work is going to make ends meet. She has already learnt to have no faith in her weak father. Now, as she enters a succession of jobs in which she experiences both exploitation and sexual harassment, she learns that men want her for only one thing. Duly, at the behest of her own mother, she enters prostitution. However, when she becomes model to an artist she is finally able to escape the poverty trap and ascend the social ladder, particularly when banker Hugo (Rutger Hauer) takes her as his lover. All this is set against a backdrop of social foment as the workers' impatience at poor social conditions increases.
Although director Verhoeven, as well as Hauer and cinematographer Jan De Bont eventually became involved in mainstream American movies, Katie Tippel is very much of the European school of film-making, episodic and harsh in its depiction of everyday poverty. The dead puppy at the beginning definitely marks it as contrary to Hollywood's near-zero canine mortality rate. The sexual scenes are graphic to the point of gratuitousness but always grimly non-titillating. Budgetary limits cramp some of the mass street scenes, but generally the film is beautifully shot and ageless in feel. A far cry, certainly from Showgirls, for which Verhoeven was later responsible. --David Stubbs