'Meet The Fokkens'

A racy, thoroughly enjoyable docu about a pair of 69-year-old identical-twin hookers in Amsterdam, "Meet the Fokkens" bounces along with defiant joie de vivre.

A racy, thoroughly enjoyable docu about a pair of 69-year-old identical-twin hookers in Amsterdam, “Meet the Fokkens” bounces along with defiant joie de vivre. Though arthritis forced Louise Fokkens to quit two years earlier, while her sister, Martine, still plies her trade from a window in the red-light district, the two have stayed virtually inseparable; together, in matching brightly colored outfits, they venture out to the beach, ride bicycles and check out the latest in top-of-the-line vibrators. Bowing Aug. 8 at Gotham’s Film Forum, Rob Schroder and Gabrielle Provaas’ raunchy, hilariously uninhibited docu should wow arthouse auds.

Whether embracing old friends and new acquaintances, swapping sexual anecdotes or kicking up their heels to amuse passing tourist boats, the sisters present a determinedly cheerful vision of the world’s oldest profession, invoking the many “nice” men out there who needed them and made their existence more than bearable. Yet while both were very sexually active in the liberated ’60s, neither would have chosen their line of work. A slew of photographs accompanies Louise’s bitter account of her marriage, as her husband beat her and forced her into prostitution. Martine joined her sister apparently in solidarity, partly because her own boyfriend was not loath to turn pimp, and partly out of anger at those who dissed Louise for her newly assumed role.

Glimpses of Martine at work emphasize such matters as the extreme labor-intensiveness of pleasuring her clients, even with the aid of a vibrator; her dominatrix gigs, albeit thorough, seem remarkably laid-back by comparison. The siblings’ amused, somewhat disdainful recollections of clergymen they’ve serviced, including rabbis and priests, imply a healthy moral distance from their carnal experiences. However, Martine’s re-enactment of a dominatrix moment comes off as disconcertingly enthusiastic.

Martine is regularly visited by missionaries who urge her to quit, offering to free her of the financial obligations that prevent her from retiring. The film never weighs in on the legitimacy of these do-gooders, and Martine never trusts them enough to put their bona fides to the test. Louise, meanwhile, spends much of her time painting, often joined by Martine; their canvases of street life, flowers and genitalia later figure prominently in an exhibition to which they invite the entire neighborhood, young and old. The champagne flows freely, and Louise’s daughter, none the worse for her years in foster care, appears on the scene for loving encouragement.

The sisters obviously relish sharing experiences and memories with each other . Even now, Louise demands daily updates on Martine’s latest adventures and often sits in the window with her to keep her company while she beckons passersby. This closeness contributes mightily to the gusto with which the siblings face their days, and explains the enthusiasm with which they participate in the film.

Meet the Fokkens

Netherlands

Production

A Kino Lorber (in U.S.) release of a Submarine production in co-production with VPRO Television. Produced by Femke Wolting, Bruno Felix. Directed by Rob Schroder, Gabrielle Provaas.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, HD), Wiro Felix, Schroder; editor, Sander Vos, music, Danny Malando; sound, Carla van der Meijs, Frank van der Sterre, Hugo Dijkstal; line producers, Fabie Hulsebos, Janneke van de Kerkhof. Reviewed at Film Forum, New York, Aug. 1, 2012. (In SilverDocs Film Festival; 2011 Intl. Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.) Running time: 77 MIN.

With

Louise Fokkens, Martine Fokkens.
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