Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Nouchka van Brakel's HET DEBUUT (THE DEBUT) on Blu-ray and DVD from CULT EPICS

Nouchka van Brakel's

Published initially in 1975 by Dutch publisher Peter Loeb, Het debuut served as the startling introduction to Amsterdam-born authoroess Hester Albach. Told from the point of view of a teenage girl who is having an affair with a middle-aged man, Het debuut proved a controversial literary sensation upon its release. Barely out of her teens herself in 1975, Albach was just as sensational as her first novel and was profiled in numerous pieces by the Dutch press.  NRC Handelsblad praised Albach's prose as "often witty, rarely dramatic" and championed her "bold" use of language.  

Interviewed around Het debuut's release by Leeuwarder Courant, Peter Loeb described himself as the youngest independe

nt publisher in The Netherlands. At only twenty years old, the statement was probably an extremely accurate one. Loeb already had several books in his publication house arsenal when he agreed to publish Albach's first novel, but none had garnered as much attention as Het debuut.  

Stories of illicit romances are as old as art itself, but Albach's decidedly feminist perspective made Het debuut quite unlike any other similar literary work. Not surprisingly, comparisons to Nabokov's Lolita were rampant. The NRC Handelsblad piece even titled their profile piece on Albach, "Lolita Tells." The talented young Arbach couldn't get away from the comparison, but it didn't affect Het debuut's success.  Het Parool praised Albach as a significant new literary talent with a knack for heartfelt "honest reporting" about subject matter most authors wouldn't dare touch. Their only real complaint about the book was its brevity of less than a hundred pages.  

Het Parool would also feature an interview with Albach in which she discussed some of her fears writing such a daring book. Stating that she didn't want Het debuut to be known just as a "female book," Albach recalled she wrote the book in a deliberately "fast and hard" style. She also humorously noted with wild teenage confidence that her main goal was to write "the novel of the century." The most notable news that came out of the interview was Albach's hope that a young feminist aspiring Dutch filmmaker would adapt the book into her first feature-length movie.  

Nieuwsblad van het Noorden would also report the news of the film during a lengthy interview with Albach, where she discussed the creation of the book further:

"Hester, introduced at the age of sixteen in the Amsterdam "De Kring" and no stranger to the capital artist world, came into contact with the young publisher Peter Loeb through Hans Sleutelaar, who had read some of her work and saw something in it. This encouraged her to write the novella. The Debut, supplemented with more childhood memories, is to be made into a film next spring under the direction of Nouchka van Brakel. 

Before writing The Debut, she'd done all sorts of things. "After three years of lyceum and two years at the academy, I restored antiques and studied electronics. After that, I had all kinds of jobs because I had to take care of myself early on. I was at a secondary school, a computer assistant, at a theatre company, a packer at Patria, in cafes behind the bar, and that makes you so miserable. But I don't want to be dependent on others. I still want to have a tenner in my pocket to come home on my own.

Meanwhile, Hester's faith in humanity has taken some dents since the publication of her novella. The reactions weren't always that pleasant. Some think she's cynical; some think she's an ego tripper. "It's like you're a threat by writing a book and doing something on your own rather than together. Someone said, "You know what I thought was right?" If you'd written a book about the kids of Vietnam. Why do we always have to talk to each other about guilt? Is that progressive? I agree that a lot needs to change. We should move mountains to help ravaged areas to a better climate. But why can't you feel good, be sure of yourself, try to get the best out of yourself? I am very ambitious. I want to go to the moon or at least to America. And live in the most expensive hotel in the world, but I still eat a bag of fries every day if I feel like it. I would also like to have a car. And tour Amsterdam without guilt with an environmentally polluting exhaust."

As Het debuut was quickly selling out its first run, Albach continued to be profiled by the Dutch press, who couldn't get enough of her youthful punk rock spirit. New of the film version began to pick up steam in November of 1976 when De Telegraph ran a full-page article on the film's casting. Noting Van Brakel's history (which I covered in my look at A Woman Like Eve), the article closed with the following call that echoed throughout The Netherlands:

"Candidates for the starring role can report by letter, with a photo embedded, to the FILM EDITOR of De Telegraaf/ Courant Nieuws van de Dag, P.O. Box *** in Amsterdam. The registrations must be sent as soon as possible."

Not surprisingly, applicants flooded the offices of De Telegraph as the long process of finding the perfect young-adult actress for The Debut was underway. The adult cast Van Brakel had already assembled was extremely impressive and included Peter Faber and Kittie Courbois. Van Brakel wanted an unknown for the lead, though. It was essential that the part not be played by a recognizable actress.   

While the actress that would eventually play the lead role of Carolien in 
The Debut ultimately got the majority of press attention, van Brakel's behind-the-scenes crew was just as impressive. Van Brakel would end up adapting the book along with fellow $corpio film veteran Carel Donck. Award-winning cinematographer Theo van de Sande was brought on board for the film's photography, which would be a perfect fit for its crisp fall and winter setting.  Daughters of Darkness editor August Verschueren was hired for the film's cutting, as was another $corpio member Inger Kolff for the film's unfussy art direction. Van Brakel and producer Matthijs van Heijningen did all they could to ensure that her long-awaited feature-length debut would be worth all of the anticipation that was building.  

Van Brakel wanted something spare but unique for the film's soundtrack and reached out to composer Ron Westerbeek and Dutch prog rock band Water for the film's sublimely effective score. Water had just unleashed their terrific second album, Damburst (1976), when they came aboard The Debut. Their work on the film's soundtrack occurred just before they broke up in 1977.  

While the cast and crew on The Debut were extremely distinguished, the film's success depended on the casting of Carolien. A week before Christmas, 1976, De Telegraph announced the actress who Van Brakel had cast. Her name was Marina de Graaf.

Originally from Sylvia Kristel's hometown of Utrecht, lovely and talented Marina de Graaf was the ideal actress for The Debut.  De Telegraph detailed the process that led to her discovery:

"No less than fourteen hundred letters with striking photographs were sent to our editors after the publication of the story in which girls were asked to compete for a major role in a new Dutch film. With director Nouchka van Brakel and producer Matthijs van Heijningen, all letters were carefully studied, after which test recordings were made for days with prospective actresses. The winner eventually emerged as MARINA DE GRAAF as the girl to whom Nouchka van Brakel dared to entrust the important role in her film Het Debuut."

It was a terrific introduction story. Albach was particularly pleased with Van Brakel's young discovery as this lengthy piece in Nieuwsblad van het Noorden pointed out:

"The Debut is produced for half a million guilders, a low-budget film, with a contribution from the Dutch Production Fund. The cast also includes Pleuni Touw, Kitty Courbois and Dolf de Vries. The crew features Nouchka's husband, Theo van der Sande. Filming will be completed within six weeks. It is filmed at locations in Amsterdam-Zuid and in the Belgian seaside resort of Knokke. The film will be released by Tuchinski in 1977. Hester Albach's novel was rewritten into a script by Karel Donck and Van Brakel. An attempt to find someone through a call in newspapers and television had done little. Marina de Graaf was eventually suggested by friends. Nouchka van Brakel and Hester Albach are very enthusiastic about this choice: Marina even seems to look like Hester. Marina never had plans to be an actress, she says and she just read the book last week. Playing the lead role in the film adaptation seems to her to be a lot of fun to do. And other than that, she'll see."

Marina perhaps never planned on a career as an actress, but her extraordinary performance in The Debut all but assured that undesired destiny. Van Brakel's young protege kept the director and her crew busy as she was a bit of a wild child on the set.  Het vrije volk called de Graaf wildly spontaneous while filming and reported that she was obsessed with getting a motorcycle license. Dealing with a delightfully bratty young woman in her late teens on the set of The Debut was a challenge for Van Brakel, but it was well worth it as de Graaf gives one of the great debut performances of the period. She is so perfectly cast that it is impossible to imagine anyone else in the role.  

De Graaf's powerful performance controls nearly every frame of The Debut, but the rest of the cast is uniformly fine. As her older lover, future award-winning actor Gerard Cox gives a complex and uneasy performance. The film contains numerous rich performances, including a scene-stealing turn by Van Brakel's daughter, Sandrien. 

While most of the press attention went to De Graaf, the most head-turning figure on The Debut's set was none other than legendary scenester and artistic muse Mathilde Willink. Making her only big-screen appearance in a striking scene featuring her tenderly applying makeup to the young de Graaf, Willink is captured by Van Brakel during her most captivating period. 

Watching Willink and de Graaf in their brief scene together is truly exciting. The fact that Willink died under mysterious circumstances just a few months after the film premiered makes her brief appearance all the most haunting.  

The Debut is not only one of the best first films of the seventies, but it is also one of the best Dutch films period. You can feel Van Brakel's years of experience in both film and the feminist movement bursting through every scene.  The Debut never feels at all preachy or condescending. It is a beautifully directed and written work that manages to be poetic but not predictable. Most importantly, The Debut never feels exploitive, something that it would have struggled with had a man attempted to direct it.  

With its confident direction and knockout performances, The Debut is an entirely unforgettable and distinctive experience. Critical reaction was mostly positive, with some mixed reactions mixed in.  The Debut was a popular hit, though, and inevitable stardom was predicted for the quirky and mesmerizing de Graaf. The exciting young actress was struggling with the sudden onslaught of fame, though, as this piece in Algemeen Dagblad made all too clear:

"I don't like the fame at all. They now recognize me as Marina de Graaf, the girl from the film, but they don't know the real Marina - that's very annoying. A lot of people I used to see now say, "Oh, how nice to see you again; I want to be your boyfriend." When I hear something like that, I get really mad. They only like me because they think I'm a movie star. By the way, I don't think I'm a star at all! When they ask me if I'm not proud now, I answer, "proud? Not at all."

Admitting that she had "cried with emotion" when she finally saw the completed film, De Graaf was struggling with the unexpected stardom. Interviewed by Leeuwarder courant, De Graaf noted a terrifying incident that had occurred just before The Debut premiered:

"I got beat up last week, two days before the premiere. A girl attacked me; she probably had someone else's orders. I didn't even know them. It's heavy! She pulled my hair out of my head, and I've got another bruise here. I didn't do anything back because she was twice as strong as me. I just got down on the ground and got beat up. I don't want people to be jealous of me. Incredibly childish! And then they say I hit her first! And that never actually happens there, but once it happened and then I was screwed. I cried, mainly because it had never happened to me before that someone hit me for no reason."

Incidents like the one above certainly didn't help the anxiety stricken de Graaf, who never did achieve the stardom that had seemed so inevitable. The majority of her performances in the years directly after The Debut were mostly blink-and-miss eye-grabbing supporting turns. She would continue acting in film and television, but The Debut remains her signature role. Major stardom might have never occurred, but even the most prominent stars would kill to have a performance as accomplished as The Debut on their resume.  

The relative success of The Debut would lead Van Brakel to one of the most exciting careers of the period. It might not be Van Brakel's greatest film, but moments like when she films de Graaf riding her bike through the streets of Amsterdam captures an authentic youthful freedom not seen in other movies. Add that on to the fact that Van Brakel managed to film what could have been a grossly offensive story so honestly and sensitively makes The Debut all the more remarkable.  

The Debut is making its worldwide Blu-ray debut via a new release from Cult Epics. Featuring a stirring new HD transfer from a rare 35 mm print, The Debut looks fantastic. Extras include vintage behind-the-scenes footage, a packed photo gallery, and trailers. 
It is available as a single disc release and will also be in the upcoming Nouchka van Brakel Trilogy box-set.

Even though it is both a decidedly feminist work and not exploitive, The Debut could not be made in today's climate.  Cult Epics' fine new edition not only restores one of the finest debuts of the seventies, but it also harkens back to a time when filmmakers were eager to tackle controversial subject matter, and audiences weren't afraid to view them.    

-Jeremy R Richey, 2021-


Nouchka Van Brakel Trilogy from Cult Epics on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

SYLVIA KRISTEL: FROM EMMANUELLE TO CHABROL Book and CULT EPICS' Blu-ray Set Now Available for Pre-Order at Indiegogo

We have ten days left in our pre-order campaign for my first book, SYLVIA KRISTEL:  FROM EMMANUELLE TO CHABROL, over at Indiegogo.  Please consider purchasing a copy if you have ever read and enjoyed my stuff here and please help share the link.  I worked several years on this and have never been prouder of anything I have ever written or been a part of in general.  More info on the book and the amazing Blu-ray box can be read here.  Thanks! 


Sunday, April 11, 2021

Nouchka van Brakel's A WOMAN LIKE EVE (1979) (Now Available From Cult Epics)

What in the hell was Monique van de Ven doing in Starsky and Hutch? After all, it had only been a few years since van de Ven's Oscar-worthy work in Paul Verhoeven's 
Turks Fruit (1973) and Keetje Tippel, so seeing her play opposite Antonio Fargas' Huggy Bear in "A Body Worth Guarding." was one of the oddest sights of the late seventies. 

Van de Ven had been on a television set before, but the Dutch miniseries Sil de strandjutter (1976) was a much more serious affair than an American cop show.  "A Body Worth Guarding" had not gone unnoticed back in van de Ven's home country. In a July 1978 edition, De Telegraph noted that the episode was a waste of time for a highly talented actress and "worthless" in general.  Starsky and Hutch would prove to be a most inauspicious American debut for Van de Ven, but a much more significant role awaited her back in The Netherlands as the seventies drew to a close.  

Starsky and Hutch had indeed been a 'worthless' step in van de Ven's noteworthy career and would prove a tragic foreshadowing of later attempts to breakthrough in the American market. Van de Ven had no way of predicting the future in 1978, but she knew scripts like "A Body Worth Guarding." were a waste of her considerable talents. Van de Ven's other roles in 1978 were thankfully much more exciting and included Brian Trenchard-Smith's Australian cult oddity Stunt Rock and Ate de Jong's Inheritance. They were fine films, but Van de Ven's passion project was a script she had on Starsky and Hutch's set. She would tell Algemeen Dagblad in July of 1978 that the script's title character had already wholly taken her over and cameras hadn't even begun rolling yet.

Van de Ven was reportedly so excited about the new project that she had turned down a major Hollywood film to make it. This would prove nearly disastrous when van de Ven discovered the film's writer and director had second thoughts about her casting as she was concerned the 26-year-old actress was too young for the role. A panicked van de Ven refused to be denied the part and persevered, even going so far as threatening legal action, as the film's producer had promised her the role.  

The plum role Monique van de Van refused to let slip away was as Eve in Een vrouw als Eva, the groundbreaking work from the pen of the film's director, Nouchka van Brakel. Telling the story of a lonely wife of an uncaring husband who falls in love with another woman, Een vrouw als Eva was poised to be one of the great films of the period, and van de Ven knew it.  

Born in the spring of 1940 in Amsterdam, Nouchka van Brakel had been a part of the exploding new Dutch film wave that had begun to take shape throughout the sixties. A fading photograph in a September 1963 issue of Het Parool, marking Cinestud - Amsterdam International Student Film Festival, showed a young Van Brakel pictured with a number of her peers who would help revolutionize Dutch cinema, including Pim de la Para and Wim Verstappen.  

Van Brakel had been around artists all of her life. Her parents were musicians who were as passionate about left-wing politics as art, and both would surround the young Van Brakel, although film and theater would spark her passion, not music. Inspired by her mother's feminist ideals, Van Brakel became the first-ever woman accepted to Nederlandse Filmacademie, the prestigious Netherlands Film Academy. Just as crucial to her blossoming career was the group she would host at her house, the influential Dutch Feminist organization, Dolle Mina.

Formally established in 1969, Dolle Mina's origins went back to pioneering Dutch Feminist Wilhelmina Drucker, who argued for women's equal rights throughout the late 19th and early 20th century. A key group of Feminism's second wave, Dolle Mina, was dedicated to equal pay, rights, and protections for women. The group's, at times, absurdist political acts and demonstrations not surprisingly attracted much press attention as the seventies dawned.     

De Volkskrant covered one of Dolle Mina's first significant demonstrations in January of 1970 at the men's only Nijenrode Castle. The paper noted the calamitous protest was a campaign "for equal rights for women."  Trouw would feature the event in a relatively long piece that featured quotes by Dolle Mina's representation:

"The man is still in charge. Only on election day are a husband and wife equal. A real emancipated woman is not the rule but an exception. This ruling is for the account of the action group 'De Dolle Mina,' which met yesterday afternoon in the Atheneum News Centre to inform the 'outside world' of the motives that led to its creation a month ago and its future activities. The organization, born out of a group of 'troubled girls,' currently has more than 40 members and believes that women in this society are continuing for the lesser part of the man, that she is not completely, evenly matched. 'Most girls have a worse education than the boys. After school, they become typists or waitresses or go into a store. They wait for a man to pick them out, and then they get married. And that's where she's waiting, the rut, which deprives her of any opportunity to develop her talents: "And when she goes to work, she pays more tax than he does. She earns less for the same job. The group advocates a change of mindset for both men and women so that 'they become aware that women have as many and equal rights as the man.' There will be a tough action, including "a call for a general cooking strike against oppression by men," an action for free nurseries, and an action for public toilets for women."

More demonstrations followed and more press coverage.  Het Parool summed up the group in the headline, "Doll Mina to Fight Against A Man's World." The article summed up the group's adventurous protest stylings:

"The emancipation of women will be dealt with considerably this year. Dolle Mina has had enough of petitions and pamphlets. Mad Mina's going out on the street to demand public urination right also for women. Dutch housewives are advised to hold a cooking strike tonight. Dutchmen should now feel that the female is against oppression. She no longer wants to play the slave that's ready for sir, who cooks for sir, who irons, sews, dishes for sir. Dolle Mina wants equality in 1970. The action group consisting of thirty housewives, young mothers, and students, assisted by ten men who share these ideas, took action yesterday. The Nijenrode training institute, which is only accessible to men, was stormed by Dolle Mina. It came to a slight collision, but eventually, a conversation was reached. Dolle then entered Mina Amsterdam to burn a corset at the statue of her patron Wilhelmina Drucker. This symbolized the elimination of oppression of women."

As the seventies began, Van Brakel became known for her Dolle Mina role. Het vrije volk featured her in a piece on the Feminist group just a few days after 1970 had begun. Van Brakel had been active in the Dutch film world throughout the sixties in various capacities, and her activities with the group would inform her film work. Her directorial career began with several short narrative and documentary films. Van Brakel's intelligence, love for cinema, and fiery left-wing politics made her one of the most fully-loaded filmmakers of the seventies. This would become especially apparent with the early seventies documentary she directed, Ouder Worden.   De tijd noted the film concerned "the division of roles imposed on boys and girls in primary school." It was a startling documentary, and Van Brakel talked about it to the Dutch paper:

"Women are victims of a complicated indoctrination process. Whether you are born as a boy or as a girl depends on chance. But the girls have to play their role as human beings differently from the boys. The simple fact that you have become a boy or a girl immediately robs you of a piece of freedom."

Ouder Worden garnered much attention for a short documentary and would help Van Brakel finance her first narrative feature. Finally, after more than fifteen years working in the Dutch film world, Van Brakel's first feature, Het debuut, appeared in 1977 to great acclaim and controversy. The film would introduce audiences to one of the most exciting young actresses of the period, Marina de Graaf, and solidified Van Brakel as one of the premier filmmakers in The Netherlands.  

Het Debuut became one of the most discussed Dutch films of the seventies, and it made a star out of de Graaf. The film's success paved the way for Van Brakel's equally ambitious follow-up, which she began scripting with the Dutch poet and fellow Dolle Mina's figure, Judith Hertzberg. The two defiant feminists would take a concept (inspired by a real-life court case) by fellow Dutch screenwriter Carol Donck and transform it into Een vrouw als Eva (A Woman Like Eve).  

While van de Ven was struggling to retain her lead role in A Woman Like Eve, Van Brakel began assembling what would turn into a most extraordinary cast. The choices included Peter Fabar as Eva's selfish husband, Ad, and the extraordinary Renée Soutendijk in a critical supporting role. Along with the title character, Eve's lover Liliane would be the most challenging part to cast, and the perfect actress turned out to be French, not Dutch.  

Parisian Maria Schneider had just turned twenty-five when the script for A Woman Like Eve was sent to her. The embattled Schneider was having a very rough time personally and professionally by 1978. The worldwide fame attached to her landmark role in Last Tango in Paris (1973) proved too much for the young woman, and she had increasingly turned to drugs and alcohol for relief. After working with Antonioni on his masterpiece The Passenger (1975), Schneider's choices became more militantly feminist and less commercial. Tinto Brass had just fired her from Caligula (1979) for refusing to appear nude in the film when A Woman Like Eve came her way. The role of Liliane would turn out to be amongst the finest of Maria Schneider's career, but her emotional problems were apparent on the set and onscreen. Fresh from rehab, a briefly sober Schneider was an exposed nerve on the set of A Woman Like Eve, but her performance ultimately made her casting worthwhile.    

Van Brakel recalled in 2020 that she and van de Ven had been friends, and she greatly admired the young actress. Her hesitancy in casting her only had to do with her age. She recalled arriving home from a scouting trip in Paris to find stacks and stacks of letters from fans pleading that she cast van de Ven in the role. Thankfully the two finally realized they could make it work, and Monique van de Ven's place as the title role in A Woman Like Eve was finally situated shortly before the film went into production. While the film's cast was the focus of much press attention, the near-all female crew was just as fascinating. For the film's cinematography, Van Brakel and producer Matthijs van Heijningen turned to another strong female, Palestinian-born Nurith Aviv. A future filmmaker in her own right, Aviv would be just one of several strong women working on A Woman Like Eve, including another future director working as the film's editor, Ine Schenkkan.  

One of the critical names working behind A Woman Like Eve's scenes was composer Laurens van Rooyen, who supplies the film with its remarkable soundtrack. It was one of two masterful scores van Rooyen would deliver in 1978, as his Mysteries appeared shortly after A Woman Like Eve. Van Rooyen's gorgeous score guides the film's emotional impact but is never intrusive or overwhelming.  

A Woman Like Eve's shooting was fraught with difficulty. Schneider was brilliant but challenging and a mess on the set. Van Brakel noted in 2020 that being "complicated and difficult" could be a positive and that it can make "someone special and exceptional." Van Brakel found Schneider a bit impenetrable and struggled with what she saw as compromised love scenes due to the actress, noting that the scenes in Blue Is The Warmest Color were more what she had in mind.  

Schneider's problems were minute compared to the day a radical lesbian group threatened the cast and crew during filming at an outdoor festival. Angry that van de Ven was cast because she wasn't a real-life lesbian, the group threatened Monica with violence and attempted to destroy the crew's camera. Van Brakel and Aviv were particularly hurt and shocked by the misguided protest. Van Brakel remembered in 2020 the sight of a raging Aviv screaming at the protesters that they were making the film about and for them.  

The rest of the shoot was thankfully calmer, and the film got tons of press attention, primarily thanks to the cast. Het Parool featured a full-page profile of Schneider discussing her drug abuse, emotional issues, and her recent rehab stint:

"Maria Schneider, born 26 years ago in Paris, her father is still a valued stage actor there, talks with little emotion about a period in her life that must have been very profound. In Italian boulevard magazines at that time, 1974, articles appeared that Maria had voluntarily been locked up in a psychiatric hospital with her friend. At the beginning of this year, persistent rumors that Maria had been hospitalized for narcotics in a clinic in Sweden to rest so that she could work with a complete commitment on the film A Woman like Eva, for which she has been in the Netherlands for several weeks now. The film will be made in Haarlem and the South of France. Maria stays in a large Amsterdam hotel until the beginning of September.

Now, after seven years, Maria Schneider says of the Last Tango period, 'It was hell. I was just 19 when Bertolucci picked me out of many girls for the role. I was a model and had played some minor roles in meaningless movies. I was incredibly naïve, without any experience. Exactly what Last Tango in Paris was about only dawned on me much later. Working with Marlon Brando was great, a fine man, never difficult. In fact, for me, the big blow came after the shoot, when the film was released. The reactions were really horrendous. I was called a whore, Marlon, a child molester. Whereas the movie wasn't about that at all. It was just a relationship between two people, like the one that flourishes almost daily in the world. I really freaked out about all those people who had an opinion of me. I just couldn't go out on the street without being harassed. 

Yesterday, director Nouchka van Brakel characterized the content of A Woman like Eva. Nouchka denied it will be a feminist film. 'I don't like stamps like that. It's just a movie made by women. The only important man is Eva's husband (Peter Faber). I even chose a woman for camera work (Nurith Ariv) because she has the same way of looking at things. Women usually look at certain situations less aggressively. Men jump on everything much more quickly. I know I'm generalizing now, and I'm not a man-hater. I'm not saying I'm sending a message with this movie; people have to see for themselves what they want to do with it." Monique van der Ven, who takes on the role of the approximately 35-year-old mother, was quite angry during the Amsterdam Central Station meeting about the stories about the argument she would have had with Nouchka van Brakel. 'We discussed the problems of that role very quietly. There was no argument. I feel very suitable for motherhood. It's very good with that role.'  

'How do you know about the clinics,' Maria asks in a soft voice when I ask about the background of all the stories published about her. 'I hardly ever give interviews; everything in the Italian magazines about me is a lie. In Sweden I stayed with a very good friend who has a farm. It's none of your business whether or not I've been in institutions, those are private matters, and I don't talk about that. It's just none of your business, and that's it. I'm not going to give you an explanation of what I'm doing. The only thing I got from Last Tango in Paris is that I was offered prominent roles and could make much money. From my role in Last Tango in Paris, I have earned almost nothing. Marlon Brando. got $20,000, and I got $2,000, while I had to work harder because I was more in the movie. I never took a role for the pennies. It's was to work with Michelangelo Antonioni. Together with him, I will make an extraordinary film in the future that I can't tell you about yet - because nothing is fixed yet. Oh, yes, why I'm in A Woman like Eva, that was the question. A few months ago, I worked on a movie where only women participated, apart from some unimportant male technicians. The woman who did the camera work also works for Nouchka van Brakel. That's how I got in touch with her. I'm not an outspoken feminist, but I enjoy working with women. I believe that women do many things, for example, making a movie. I liked the script Nouschka made me read. A 35-year-old woman who lives in a commune in France and begins an affair with a young girl. The story ends well. The two women decide to stay together and separate the oldest woman from her husband. Kind of a love story. 

This is the 20th movie I'm doing. I started at 16, so that would be two movies a year. But sometimes I don't work for a while. I lived in America for three years: I didn't do anything. I could afford it. I either work hard, or I rested. That's my way of life. I don't have my own house or anything. I've lived in hotels for ten years. Well, no, that's not boring. The advantage is that in the big hotels all rooms around the world are the same, so you don't notice where you are at some point. If the recordings last longer than a month, I usually rent an apartment or a house near the set. Gradually I start to feel the need for a place for myself. I've been planning to buy a home in the countryside in central France for a while. Sometimes a person has to come to his senses. Filming is a tough job where people are not taken into account. Some people have to fight for years to get recognition, and some are just thrown out. Take Marlon Brando; that man has been successful since he was 20. What's he got to lose? He's only acting for 101. With Jack Nicholson, it's very different. That's a complicated man. He often thinks he's not taken seriously, that they don't appreciate him as an actor. That's because he had to fight for recognition for twenty-five years.

In A Woman like Eva, I'm going to sing for the first time. That way you always learn something. I don't have any movie plans after A Woman like Eva. First, I go to Japan to record an advertising video about engines, and then I plan to take a course for sound engineer. I'm intrigued by the technical side of filming. In my spare time, I still photograph sometimes. So far, I've always played an independent young woman's role: A little confused sometimes. That's another aftermath of Last Tango in Paris. I want to get rid of that, but how, that's another question. With this role, I realize that I only build on that image."

Press coverage continued as the film's production wrapped. Most of the attention remained on Van Brakel and her two lead actresses, but actress/singer Marijke Merekens was also profiled in the pages of Het Parool, where she discussed the filming:

"It was a bit uncomfortable for me with the movie A Woman like Eva, which was not rehearsed. I also didn't get the script until three days before the recordings started. Nouchka van Brakel left us every freedom to do whatever we wanted. We weren't bound by the text either. I thought that was quite a dare; I missed something because I was used to a tight director's hand. But when I saw the movie, the result wasn't bad for me. You can't imagine how panicked I was when I went to watch. I didn't feel like I was working for a moment during the filming. It was like I was a little out of it. After all, we also had a serving task: we were there for Monique van de Ven, who is strongly central to the film. I don't mean that meanly. It's just like that. After all, the only interesting scene in my role, a scene with Peter Faber, wasn't shot. There is now no indication in the film of a growing contact between Peter and me. I'm sorry about that. Everything is about Eva. Nouchka van Brakel did not intend to make a lesbian or other typical "women's film." She is concerned with Eva's emancipation, about the woman who separates herself from her routine existence, thereby causing herself many difficulties, but persevering, finding herself, and finally becoming free. There's much love in A Woman like Eva. Nouchka does not do so for commercial reasons. She has great integrity. During the recordings, I constantly had a great admiration for the professionalism of Monique, Maria, and Peter."  

After well over a year of rumors and speculation, A Woman Like Eve was finally released in January 1979 to tempered acclaim. Leeuwarder courant called it an "excellently filmed story" and especially praised van de Ven's performance. NRC Handelsblad had problems with the film, and especially Schneider, but praised van de Ven and Renée Soutendijk. Algemeen Dagblad commended the cast and called it a decidedly "unadulterated Dutch film."

Van Brakel continued to defend and promote the film throughout 1979. Interviewed by De Volkskrant, she discussed the film and the difficulty of filming sex scenes:

"That's why I thought about Monique for a long time before I could decide: ok, we'll do it, the story is solid, and we need to be able to work it out together. And I have to say; I don't regret it. I think Monique did a great job.  

I see making love much more as something tender, something erotic and not so: boom, clothes off and making love • and that's it. I had only worked with children myself at the time, so I didn't have those problems there. For this film and The Debut, I had to do love scenes, and I have to say that I find it very difficult. I know what I don't want, but I find it very difficult to explain - especially with a whole crew of people around it.

I expected a little more support from Maria in this film, because she knows the situation of making love to women. But yes, it turned out that the ladies both had as much trouble with it as I did. So it's a pretty tricky situation. I tried not to do it in too much detail, but mainly to let the warmth between two women come across. Show that it is not scary, but very sweet, very warm, very tender, very close to each other. And I like that first love scene, the very first time Monique overcomes her embarrassment. I think that's very nicely filmed, too. I find the scene on the stairs, when they first hug each other, much more poignant, also much more erotic."

Viewed more than four decades after its release, A Woman Like Eve stands as one of the seventies' most groundbreaking and influential films. A trailblazing and tender work, A Woman Like Eve, has much in common with another of 1979's best, Robert Benton's Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979). Van Brakel's dramatic piece is one of the most critical chapters in the history of LGBTQ filmmaking. A beautifully realized, performed, directed, and written work, A Woman Like Eve is an important film. Its relatively unassuming and subdued quality makes it a truly transformative experience rare in the world of modern cinema. Van Brakel's film is a genuine masterpiece, on par with the great films centered on family and fractured relationships. Submitted but ultimately rejected for that year's best foreign film at The Academy Awards, A Woman Like Eve has gone unseen for years, making this new release from Cult Epics so genuinely noteworthy.  

Cult Epics' new special edition of A Woman Like Eve features the following specs:

New HD Transfer & Restoration (from original 35mm print)

Original LPCM 2.0 Mono track

New DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono track

Interview with Nouchka van Brakel by journalist Floortje Smit at Eye Filmmuseum HD 2020 (40 Mins)

Theatrical Trailers

Some minor print damage doesn't distract from a terrific-looking and sounding presentation. The forty-minute chat with Van Brakel is terrifically informing, and the photo gallery is surprisingly moving. A Woman Like Eve is the first of three Van Brakel titles coming from Cult Epics, as The Debut and The Cool Lakes of Death will be released soon. More information on all three discs can be read here.

Jeremy Richey, 2021