William Klein’s explosive, challenging New York street photography made him one of the most heralded artists of the fifties. An American expatriate in Paris, Klein has also been making challenging cinema for over forty years, yet, with the exception of his acclaimed 1969 documentary Muhammad Ali, the Greatest, his film work is barely known in the United States. In his three fiction features—Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?, Mr. Freedom, and The Model Couple—he skewers the fashion industry, American imperialism, and middle-class complacency with hilarious, cutting aplomb. Today, Klein’s politically galvanizing and insanely entertaining social critiques seem even more ahead of their time than works of the more famous New Wavers that overshadowed them: colorful, surreal antidotes to all forms of social oppression.
|Model Couple, The|
William Klein, 1977
In 1977 France, the Ministry of the Future chooses two average, white, middle-class citizens, Claudine (Anemone) and Jean-Michel (André Dussolier), for a national experiment. They will be monitored and displayed for six months in a model apartment outfitted with state-of-the-art products and nonstop surveillance—the template for “a new city for the new man.” An unusually prescient depiction of the breakdown of individual freedoms in the face of an increasingly mechanized consumer culture, William Klein’s The Model Couple deftly satirizes a modern age out of control.
William Klein, 1969
William Klein moved into more blatantly political territory with this hilarious, angry Vietnam-era spoof of imperialist American foreign policy. Mr. Freedom (John Abbey), a bellowing good ol’ boy superhero, decked out in copious football padding, jets off to France to curtail a Commie invasion from Switzerland. A destructive, arrogant patriot in tight pants, Freedom joins forces with Marie-Madeleine (satirically sexy Delphine Seyrig) to combat lefty freethinkers, as well as insidious evildoers Moujik Man and the inflatable Red China Man, culminating in a gloriously star-spangled showdown of kitschy excess. Delightfully crass, Mr. Freedom is a trenchant, rib-tickling takedown of gaudy modern Americana.
|Who Are You, Polly Magoo?|
William Klein, 1966
After a nearly decade as Vogue‘s most subversive fashion photographer, William Klein made this wild, pseudo-vérité peek into the world of Parisian haute couture. Elegant, scathing humor ties together the various strands of this alternately glamorous and grotesque portrait of American in Paris Polly Maggoo (Dorothy MacGowan), a mannequin-like supermodel who becomes the pin-up plaything of media hounds and the fragmented fantasy of haunted Prince Igor (Sami Frey). Klein’s first fiction film is a daring deflation of cultural pretensions and institutions dressed up in ravishing black-and-white.
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- English and French with English Subtitles
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