Wednesday, September 20, 2017


Some weeks back I mentioned by surprise that the Oscar-winning movie Klute was out of print on DVD. It's coming on TCM overnight tonight (or early tomorrow morning depending on your perspective and time zone) at 4:00 AM, so now is a good time to do a post about it.

The movie starts off with what looks like a big family dinner, followed by a sudden cut and just a couple of people left at the table. It's some months later, and one of the people who was at that table has disappeared. Now, the authorities are talking the the disappeared man's wife as well as local policeman John Klute (Donald Sutherland). More worrying, it sounds as though the disappeared man had a double life, as he was writing extremely dirty letters to a call gilr in New York City, where he also took some business trips and where he disappeared.

People want to find the disappeared man, to Klute starts working as a sort of private detective to find out what happened to him. Obviously, a good place to start would be with that call girl. So Klute goes to New York and looks up Bree Daniels (Jane Fonda, who won the Oscar) and finds that she's no longer living the good life of a high-priced call girl. Instead, she's in much shabbier surroundings, a couple of floors above a funeral home in a building that looks like it could use some work. Bree, for a whole bunch of reasons, doesn't want to talk about the disappeared man, the letters, or her life as a prostitute at all. In fact, she'd like to get away from it if she could, but it pays the bills and she's good at it.

Klute tries to get to Bree, and he's straight-arrow to the point that you wonder whether Bree has ever met a man like this. Eventually, she gives in to Klute's persistence, in part because she needs help. Somebody has been stalking her, making obscene phone calls and making her feel like she's constantly being watched. If this weren't a movie, we'd understand it could be entirely coincidental considering how many clients Bree had. But it is a movie, so we can guess from the emphasis placed on it that yeah, it has something to do with the guy's disappearance.

Klute and Bree go around the seedier parts of early 1970s New York, eventually finding... well, I'm not about to give that away. Klute is a well-made movie, doing a good job of depicting the New York of that era as the unromantic, falling-apart place it was becoming, the whole "Ford to city: drop dead" thing I've mentioned in relation to several other movies from the era. It's most definitely a grown-up story for intelligent, thinking people. Fonda does a good job, although I can't help but wonder that the Oscar is in part down to playing the sort of character that hadn't much made to the screen before, at least not in this gritty way. Sutherland is good too, although as always he got overlooked. Roy Scheider plays a pimp for whom Bree used to work, and Edith Bunker (er, Jean Stapleton) has a one-scene role as a secretary to one of Bree's elderly clients.

It's a shame that Klute seems to be out of print on DVD, because it's really worth seeing. It would also be good as part of a spotlight on New York of that time.

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