The 4th Man"I lie the truth."
There was a time when The 4th Man wasn't just in my Top 100 of All Time, it was in my Top 10. Verhoeven's cinematic extravaganza taught me the power of visual storytelling better than any silent film. The plot is a simple pansexual love triangle, mainly involving a book writer who creates fiction from small offbeat moments in his life and a fan who, like the spider in the opening scene, may be drawing him into his own destruction.
Verhoeven's images, brilliantly photographed by Jan de Bont, are full of blatant symbolism and ominous warnings, aided by the filmmaker's innate joy in pushing boundaries and buttons. Walking a tightrope that never spills into camp, the performances are theatrical and the moments of sex and violence hold nothing back. This is how Verhoeven gets away with the horrific dream imagery, it's all perfectly pitched so that I'm never laughing at the film or revolted by it but smiling along with it.
6 years ago, when I rebuilt my Top 100, this was the one title I couldn't find to re-watch, so I kept it just off the list. Watching it today, I see how some of the sexual humor is unnecessarily childish, and the climax is briefly marred by an obvious makeup effect. This won't be gong back into my Top 100, but it's going to be awfully close.Rating: * * * *