They don’t make ’em like they used to, and Paul Verhoeven’s disappointed. In this instance, “they” refers to Hollywood’s major studio system, “’em” refers to erotic thrillers, and “like they used to” refers to the ’90s, when the esteemed Dutch filmmaker came stateside to bestow the masterpieces (not joking) Basic Instinct and Showgirls upon U.S. audiences. Verhoeven’s not pleased with the direction in which the film industry is headed, and he made that much clear during some headline-grabbing comments at AFI Fest in Los Angeles this past Sunday, The Wrap reports.

In town to promote his latest feature Elle, a tragicomedy laced with black humor and sexual energy, Verhoeven bemoaned Hollywood’s hesitation to finance and produce “challenging” movies that are “erotic,” “sexual,” or “provocative” in the present climate. The director responsible for such sequences as Sharon Stone’s instantly legendary up-skirt shot in Basic Instinct and Elizabeth Berkley’s all-nude dance routine in Showgirls expressed frustration at the excess of namby-pamby PG-13 movies, saying, “If you say it has to be PG-13, there are a lot of things you cannot do. You cannot be provocative, you cannot be controversial, you cannot be sexual, erotic, in a direct way.”

“It all has to be suggestive, elliptic and whatever,” he added. “And so then the movies become neutral and the movies are not challenging you in any way.”

The Wrap’s item notes that Verhoeven had initially planned on setting and shooting Elle in America with Hollywood actresses (the film takes place in France, and stars French treasure Isabelle Huppert), but relocated when all the actresses on his wish list gave him the soft pass for fear of courting controversy through the film’s rather cheeky rape scenes.

But that’s life — Hollywood ain’t the freewheeling bacchanal it was in the ’90s, when a randy European director could traipse across the Atlantic and snap up $50 million from a studio to shoot Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone doing it. Verhoeven believes that the party’s over, but the truth is that the prudes haven’t completely won; one of this year’s most prominent animated films (Sausage Party) features a computer-generated food orgy the likes of which cinema has heretofore never dared to imagine. Any film economy that produces the sight of a hot dog bun wincing as anal beads are forcefully yanked out of her can’t have gone totally soft.

For more from Verhoeven, keep an eye out for our own interview with the director this week.

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