Dir: Pieter Kramer. The Netherlands. 2002. 100mins.
Busby Berkeley comes to Amsterdam in all-singing, all-dancing Dutch-language musical Yes Nurse, No Nurse!. Relentless innocence and Mary-Poppins optimism may bore the more cynical before the end, but it contains enough visual style and sheer kookiness to carry the majority through to the inevitable happy conclusion. Already in the Netherlands it has taken $2,957,990 (Euros 2,739,099) since opening there last October. The film also played in competition at this year's Berlin.
Foreign audiences, without knowledge of the 1960s TV series that spawned this camp swirl of post-modern candy floss will only have the subtitles and infectious good humour to hang on to. It may not be enough in such a cardboard cut-out emotional landscape.
However, if a way could be found to dub the songs without losing their rhyme or reason, then Yes Nurse, No Nurse! could become a cultish arthouse sleeper for predominantly gay audiences; possibly even taking on a kind of Rocky Horror Show singalong afterlife. Dubbing would also open up the kids market: like a Christmas pantomime, Yes Nurse, No Nurse! can be seen as a straight fairytale, leaving the innocently bawdiness for the parents to pick up. Fortisimmo has already secured a raft of sales including Japan (Pony Canyon), Italy (Metacinema), Thailand (Mongkol) and Audiovisuel (Greece).
After a curious disclaimer dissociating the International Red Cross from the use of the red cross symbol in the film - which looks like a last-minute lawyers' insertion - the audience dive straight into a nurses' dance number that sets the tone for what is to come. The studio-built nature of the neat suburban location is played up: bricks are too newly-painted, grassy lawns bounce up and down when people dance on them, and a woman takes a stuffed dog for a walk.
What plot there is revolves around a rest home presided over by Nurse Klivia (Luca) for oddballs like the Engineer - who has invented a pill that makes bad people good - and the pretty but socially inept Jet (Reidinga). Nasty neighbour Boordevol (Kooij) wants to evict the whole crackpot gang, and an excuse presents itself when Nurse Klivia agrees to take in a burglar who has the hots for Jet, and who has not quite shaken off his kleptomaniac habits.
The 1960s-retro set design and choreography give the tradition of the great Hollywood musicals a camp, contemporary twist. There are shades of Jean Paul Gaultier in the gay chic design and costumes, in the pink screen splits and tinted postcard tableaux. Some of the musical numbers almost certainly contain more innunendo than the subtitler could cope with - though a 'Fuch... Fuch... Fuchsia' routine comes through loud and clear.
Given the attention lavished on the look and the sound of the film, it is odd that Kramer allows his attention to wander. The non-singing extras, especially the children, sometimes look as though they have been rounded up on the street and pushed straight onto the set.
Prod co: Bos Bros
Neth dist: Warner Bros
Int'l sales: Fortissimo Film Sales
Prod: Burny Bos, Michiel de Rooij, Sabine Veenendaal
Scr: Frank Houtappels, Kramer
Cinematography: Piotr Kukla
Prod des: Vincent de Prater
Ed: Elja de Lange
Music: Raymund van Santen, Ferdinand Boland
Choreography: Suzy Blok
Main cast: Loes Luca, Paul R Kooij, Paul de Leeuw, Tjitske Reidinga, Waldemar Torenstra, Lennart Vader, Edo Brunner, Beppe Costa