Meet the Fokkens
Directed by Gabrielle Provaas
Although disorganized to the point of incoherence, Gabrielle Provaas's standard issue, subject-facing documentary about the Fokken twins, Louise and Martine (both prostitutes in the Amsterdam Red Light District for over 50 years), has a light-heartedness and candour that compensate for its structural shortcomings. These women, both overweight and well past their prime, have a sense of humour about their situation and themselves that makes accessible and comical things that could easily be disturbing and alarming, like manually stimulating a man with a masturbatorial device while singing, "The Wheels on the Bus."
Meet the Fokkens attempts to weave their current predicament – facing retirement without any financial plans for the future – with a history of the district and their stories, suffering abusive husbands and escaping pimps to run their own brothel. But little thought is put into framing it all with a linear, or at least thematic, trajectory to generate a sense of identification or appreciation.
Instead, these moments of historical factoids merely slow down the focus of the documentary, which is sassy comments from dirty old sluts talking about screwing priests and rabbis, and the horrors of tackling a morbidly obese trick. It's true that their candid descriptions of the many perverts and oddballs that have crossed their paths throughout the years are often hilarious, but this focus on the profane, which often follows Martine into frank scenarios, whipping and blindfolding old men and jerking off a variety of faceless, interchangeable ciphers, neglects the intended subject exploration.
In fact, it makes cartoonish the personas of two real people, reinforcing the notion that sex workers lack humanity and exist only to entertain either in a sexual capacity or, in the case of these undesirable older women, a comic capacity. Had Provaas's occasionally amusing doc gone one way or the other, embracing subject ridicule or attempting to transcend that expectation, it might have worked in its own sense. But there's an overall lack of focus that makes Meet the Fokkens little more than a morbid curiosity.
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