Take Seven: Object Lessons
Paul Verhoeven’s psychosexual hall of mirrors remains worthy of a steel-plated prize for the best use of a kitchen utensil in a motion picture . . . Basic Instinct finds both men and women culpable in a time-honored mating game that has no clear rules barring the foolhardy pursuit of pleasure.
It’s never confirmed that the film’s “right” Chinaman is a statue whose head stands still and straight. Yet this remains all a matter of perception, as well as interpretation. The object is thus tactile yet vaguely defined, and leads to a larger question: if the Chinaman doesn’t belong here, then what, or who, does?
What does giving such primacy to the nonhuman and inanimate mean for the other elements onscreen, specifically the human or the animal? What does an object convey? What is its meaning within an art form that is itself so given to fears of impermanence?