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Dutch Film Special (4): Gooische Vrouwen, 458 refugees and frikandellennostalgia

Look, an award for Gooische Vrouwen 2 after all! The best-attended Dutch film in years had been miserably ignored at the Golden Calf nominations, according to some. Now, on the opening night of the Dutch Film Festival honoured with an award at Utrecht's Beatrix Theatre after all. An award of honour no less.

This cinema hit attracted more than 2 million visitors. According to the Nederlands Film Festival board, this should not go unnoticed. So screenwriter Frank Houtappels and actress Susan Visser accepted the 'NFF honorary award for the craftsmanship of the best attended Dutch film production' on behalf of the film team. I wonder whether GV2 will soon also win the Golden Audience Calf, which is determined by audience votes.

It's never right either

Will also wonder what the complaining producers of Michiel de Ruyter and The Escape think of this. Are they still angry because the festival is supposedly too elitist? Are they still going to refuse their Golden Calf (assuming they get one)? Quite childish, frankly. And that just when the festival has disbanded the oft-criticised jury and let the professional brothers and sisters of the Dutch Academy for Film vote for the Golden Calfs. It's never good either.

Festival director Willemien van Aalst also wanted to say a few words about this in her opening speech, although she phrased it more diplomatically. She stressed that the festival is there for all films and all genres. "Those who feel short-changed can also raise their voices in the media in the future, but we would rather see creators get involved, seize their chance and vote next year as well."

458 refugees

As previously reported here borders in many forms and approaches take centre stage at this festival. In that context, Van Aalst not only mentioned Joost van Ginkel's immigrant drama The Paradise Suite (world premiere was already in Toronto), but also welcomed three special guests. Three Dutchmen with major international careers: costume designer Jany Temime, director of photography Hoyte van Hoytema and production designer Jan Roelfs.

While also pointing out that 'borders' is also a loaded concept these days. "Because on the seventh floor of this building, 458 refugees have been staying in an emergency shelter for several days. What can we as a festival do? Organise a film evening for them, that's the least."

J. Kessels: frikandel nostalgia

In 2000, the festival opened with Wilde Mossels, Erik de Bruyn's dashing, press-award-winning debut. Not a bad idea, then, to kick off this year's film festival with De Bruyn's latest: the comedy J. Kessels based on the book by P.F. Thomése. Especially nice that Fedja van Huêt and Frank Lammers, lead actors from Wilde Mossels, return in it. With a bit of imagination, you could even see the aging characters from back then in it. Slightly dazed middle-aged men stuck in their overly cherished nostalgia.

Van Huêt as the pulp writer who still dreams of Brigitte's buttocks like a young adolescent. Lammers as the chain-smoking beer drinker who plays a heroic role in his writing friend's books. Now together on a bizarre mission that takes them from Tilburg to the Reeperbahn in Hamburg, and back again. A wondrous road movie with a Chrysler Kamikaze, a frikandel king, chipotle romance, football with NAC and a corpse in the boot. Van Huêt and Lammers are allowed to schmooze to their hearts' content. The design, as grubby as it is lyrical, is also great, evoking the feeling as if everything is taking place in the twilight brain of these two older youngsters.

Deliciously over the top. But is such an accumulation of grotesque scenes with an infectious lack of respect for good taste enough? Admittedly, I liked these child men better than similar characters from American comedies. Yet a sense of weariness gradually crept up on me. That deliberate blending of writer's fantasy and sobering reality doesn't work as well as you'd like, and besides: how long will this reveling in adolescent nostalgia be fun? Not long enough, as far as I'm concerned. J. Kessels takes off as a promising splurge with commendable B-movie allure, only to trot itself past with an excess of bravado.

More prices

Two more awards were presented on the opening night. The Golden Calf for Film Culture went to Sandra den Hamer, director of EYE and former director of the Rotterdam Film Festival. Director Jona Honer received the debut award for her documentary The Alchemists, about two brothers who think they have a golden investment formula.

Leo Bankersen

Leo Bankersen has been writing about film since Chinatown and Night of the Living Dead. Reviewed as a freelance film journalist for the GPD for a long time. Is now, among other things, one of the regular contributors to De Filmkrant. Likes to break a lance for children's films, documentaries and films from non-Western countries. Other specialities: digital issues and film education.View Author posts

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