Meet the Fokkens
With a jolt, the camera opens on a quaint Amsterdam street. We hear a friendly 'hello", an open greeting. A lavender beret fills the screen.
There is a dictatorial sound of high heels on pavement together with the confrontational sight of a black leather boot with several smiles of wrinkles imbedded in its folds. No this isn't Halloween, or even a scene from Hitchcock, but it could be. It is the beginning of the self-conscious joke-titled documentary "Meet the Fokkens" about two older sisters who let it all hang out.
Louise and Martine Fokken are two 69-year old identical sisters who are hookers in Amsterdam's Red Light district but were not always such. Hasty choices combined with abusive men led them down this path, but fear not. True, their lives have been no beds of roses, although they seem to take it all with a lightness of spirit and even a carnal glee, if not an outward joy.
Louise had three children. They were taken away from her after her monster husband turned pimp, proved Louise unfit and abandoned the kids. Louise worked as a seamstress but fate took her down a fleshy financial path and Martine followed. Louise has since given up the trade because of crippling arthritis, but Martine still soldiers on due to monetary needs.
Yes, there is no sugar coating here and there are tears, but this is no sob story. Louise and Martine are lascivious elves. Nothing phases them. They enter a sex toy shop like it was a Pier One. When they are interviewed they talk of men's orgasms like it is a matter of vacuuming a rug or milking a cow. They laugh and titter as if to say, "These men, how silly they are!"
Throughout the film, there are red-lensed interludes and we see all the seamy details as Martine services various men with all the curt efficiency of a mechanic. Most of the men are sprawled out on a mat like pale poultry. Next! You have to give her credit for persevering and getting results, however soft. For the Fokken Sisters, sex is a mere matter of plumbing.
For the most part, at an accelerated rate, both sisters paint. Louise's paintings in particular are wildly colorful. They quiver with life and are reminiscent of Grandma Moses and the inimitable Red Grooms.
Going down the road, arm in arm, the two are treated like celebrities. They meet the postman, the grocer, and various fans. But once night falls and Martine is alone waiting for a bus, dusk makes a long black ribbon home to a bowl of soup and a rat terrier. Periodically, placed throughout the film like cinematic parenthesis, Martine is visited by a small group of spiritually-based advisors who urge her to leave the business.
But to no avail.
We get the feeling that because of their age and experience, what was once an anxious albatross around their necks, is now a prelude to a joke, and the sister's see both the freedom and the folly of the flesh. In the final scenes, as they fall in the snow, the sisters seem to enfold, overlap and absorb each other, like Russian Nesting Dolls. Together, the two make another and no conundrums of cleavage or dilemmas of dereliction can tear them apart.
"Meet the Fokkens" sneaks up on you like a quirky smirk along a right-angled street. It is about memory, painting and the passage and haunt of Time, just as much as it is about the push and pull of sex, red-jacketed with silliness.
Ultimately, it is about two sisters who love each other. At the sight of Martine and Louise Fokken, the ghosts of both Hitchcock and Bunuel will surely rejoice and you will too.
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