A Movie A Day: Quint on KLUTE (1971) Don’t feel bad about losing your virtue… Everybody always does.
Published at: July 3, 2008, 6:49 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Following the bloodline from yesterday’s FLASHBACK we get to the senior Sutherland in a ‘70s thriller called KLUTE co-starring Jane Fonda and Roy Scheider, directed by Alan J. Pakula (THE PARALEX VIEW and ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN).
Let me start off by saying that this is a goddamn scary movie. That was a huge surprise. I found myself jumping when it was just Donald Sutherland and Jane Fonda talking, that’s how well Pakula creates an atmosphere, a creepy vibe. You know someone is watching Fonda, a New York call girl named Bree Daniels, and Pakula essentially makes us voyeurs, turning the audience into the stalker. It’s a common practice now, especially on TV with camerawork that always acts like a POV (see 24 or THE SHIELD), but for some reason it really kind of made me feel dirty while watching KLUTE.
The scene that made me jump is a regular conversation and Fonda casually opens a closet door about 40 seconds into the cut (long take) and Sutherland is reflected. Keep in mind, she’s talking to him. I knew he was in the room, just off camera, he’s been speaking… so I don’t know why it made me jump, but it did.
Add on Michael Small’s incredible score, very reminiscent of Goblin’s work on Argento’s films, and you have a creepy little thriller.
That’s actually an interesting point. The movie feels like what a Dario Argento giallo would be like if the focus wasn’t on the kills and the killer(s).
Here you follow a small town Pennsylvania cop who takes a leave of absence to investigate a friend’s disappearance. His friend was a good family man and businessman, but the people investigating his disappearance find some disturbing letters in his study, addressed to a call girl in New York.
The pieces don’t fit, so Sutherland goes to New York to solve the puzzle and hopefully find his missing friend.
His only real wellspring of information is Fonda’s struggling actress/successful hooker. As they figure out the mystery people start dying around them, but the focus is always on the relationship between Bree Daniels and John Klute.
Daniels admits to being a master manipulator, but I don’t think she quite understood how much she needed someone like Klute. Once he falls for her, he cares for her in a way she hasn’t been cared for once in her life. It scares her and she lashes out.
Fonda gives a fantastic performance here, the kind of performance that makes you remember why she’s considered one of the great actresses of the era. She gives humanity to the hooker without bringing in the clichéd heart of gold. She’s a messed up person. In fact, everybody is flawed, which is the greatest appeal for me for the films of this era. No other era showed us flawed characters like the ones we get in the ‘70s.
Roy Scheider pops up here, the same year he did THE FRENCH CONNECTION, but playing a radically different character. I’ve seen his pre-JAWS cop flicks, including French Connection and THE SEVEN-UPS, both are outstanding, but I wasn’t prepared to see him here. He plays Fonda’s ex-pimp, the little red devil on her shoulder… or, maybe more aptly, her Linus blanket. Whenever she feels threatened, especially emotionally, she runs to him. He plays the role with a great deal of quiet menace, but also caring. I really get the sense that he cares for her in his own special way.
The identity of the killer is given away really early on. That’s not he point of the movie. If Argento was doing it, we would see the kills and the killer wouldn’t have been revealed until the end… essentially, take this film and have certain elements take two steps to the left and sit back down again and you’d have a great Dario Argento movie.
Final thoughts: This is a great flick… in fact, it would make a fantastic double feature with Francis Ford Coppola’s THE CONVERSATION. Sutherland and Fonda are at their best here, confident in their roles and their performances. They don’t overdo it. And Fonda is gorgeous as ever… and completely uninhibited, if you catch my drift. Yowza!
The schedule for the next 7 days is:
Friday, July 4th: ON GOLDEN POND (1982)
Saturday, July 5th: THE COWBOYS (1972)
Sunday, July 6th: THE ALAMO (1960)
Monday, July 7th: SANDS OF IWO JIMA (1950)
Tuesday, July 8th: WAKE OF THE RED WITCH (1949)
Wednesday, July 9th: D.O.A. (1950)
Thursday, July 10th: SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943)
Tomorrow we follow Jane Fonda a decade later to 1981’s drama ON GOLDEN POND, where she co-stars with her father, Henry Fonda, and Katherine Hepburn.