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I think KLUTE could have been better


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The edge has worn off a bit. But when I went to bed last night, I had just finished watching KLUTE (for the first time) on TCM. As I walked upstairs and turned off the light, a wave of cinemotion overcame me. In a brief moment, I realised: 'I don't like KLUTE.' A pause, and then another realisation: 'I think it's okay not to like KLUTE. I can't like every motion picture I see.' And I tried to shrug it off and went to bed.

 

It is morning now. And I still don't like KLUTE. And I am trying to figure out why. 

 

***possible spoilers ahead***

 

First major thought. It tries too hard to be a romance. I think it would have been better if they didn't hook up (the characters played by Fonda and Sutherland). I also would have made Sutherland's character impotent, or else some sort of religious guy who did not believe in sex outside marriage, so that Fonda had more of a challenge. He was easy pickings for her and this bored me.

 

Second major thought. The film and Pakula's direction is too self-conscious. It keeps trying to remind us how hip it is, whether it's Fonda's costuming or the spicy dicey soundtrack or the agonizing self-recriminations that Fonda undergoes inside her therapist's office. The whole thing seems like laying down naked on a lonely stretch of beach and expecting a cool wave to engulf you, but the tide doesn't really come in and only vultures swoop down and start to pick at you. 

 

Third major thought. The story itself is weak and cliched and dragged out. The characterizations are supposed to keep us riveted in those moments when the plot has come to a screeching halt. Sometimes that works, but most of the time it is tedious and we just want the story to move forward, to pick up the pace.

 

Fourth major point. What I enjoyed most in KLUTE was the editing. And I think it is because there were so many dull spots that the editors had to work some magic to create the illusion there was action when there really wasn't any.

 

Fifth major point. I think she should have died at the end. And I think if they had not physically consummated the relationship, it would have been even more powerful and haunting if he walked the streets thinking about her and what maybe could have been. As it is, the ending tries to be a bit tongue-in-cheek ironic, with her leaving town with him and getting a call from a john-- but I really don't think we should be smiling when this picture ends.

 

Sixth major point. I read some user reviews on the IMDB where people complained the film's title was KLUTE (as opposed to BREE). But I do think this is correct. In the context of this story, she comes to be defined by him. But too much goes undeveloped. The name KLUTE, mere presence of KLUTE, should be both an impediment and her potential salvation. She should be haunted by this word, this guy, and how it is threatening her own independence-- as much as she is haunted by the demented john who is stalking her. So some of this is not fully fleshed out.

 

Seventh major point. I think she should have been even more shocking. My favorite scene is the one that takes place in the club-- we do not see Klute right away, but we can guess he is watching her. This particular sequence is complete voyeurism and fun to watch. We the audience are made to feel like we are on some sort of footing with Klute, watching her as he watches her. But I think she should have played it up more-- she should have taken one of those guys, even her pimp, into a dark hallway to toy with Klute, and she should have pretended to have lesbian tendencies flirting with another woman, to toy with Klute. In short, she should have owned that scene by playing into his own frustrated fantasies which I am sure she understood inside and out.

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Ummmm...unless I somehow missed readin' it, I think TB here might have forgotten to also mention that damn unflattering shag haircut of Jane's in this flick too! ;)

 

(...and which I always thought REALLY made her look like her dad in drag!!!) LOL

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Ummmm...unless I somehow missed readin' it, I think TB here might have forgotten to also mention that damn unflattering shag haircut of Jane's in this flick too! ;)

It was a movie of its time, down to that haircut! I agree with some of TB's points. I think, considering the attempt at "artiness," it could have been directed better by someone like Nicolas Roeg. But I think it offered a serious portrait of a prostitute. Compare it to the ladies in the brothel scene in Cat Ballou. I love that scene and song, but those ladies were cardboard cutouts. They didn't need to be more in the context of that film, but Klute at least offered a well-rounded portrait of a woman who was a prostitute.  There's a song from one of my favorite Broadway musicals -- Tenderloin -- about the old NYC red light district.  Sung by a prostitute about a guy she likes, there is this line: "You see what I am and you see what I've done. But yet when you love me, you'll be the first one."  I was reminded of that song watching Klute.

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But I think it offered a serious portrait of a prostitute. Compare it to the ladies in the brothel scene in Cat Ballou. I love that scene and song, but those ladies were cardboard cutouts.

I agree...they were trying to depict the life of a hooker more realistically. This would make a good double feature with MIDNIGHT COWBOY.

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Interesting points, TB.  I've seen Klute twice, first when it came out and then on TCM when it premiered there a few months ago.  I didn't see it when it played last night, as I wanted to save my overnight disk for the premiere of Tout va bien.

 

Before it first came out, it had a dual sort of promotion.   Several feminists I knew at the time were invited to special previews, and all the emphasis was on Bree, and Bree's "independence".   But when it was actually released, I remember the reviews playing up the "thriller" aspect of the story, which made sense from a marketing standpoint:  There'll always be more of an audience for a thriller with a detective and a good looking "bad" girl than there'll be for a movie with too transparently political a message, especially a message that runs counter to contemporary mainstream opinion.

 

I liked Klute the first time around, but the second time it seemed kind of meh.  If I could program myself to view it as a thriller, I'd probably like it more, but Fonda just seemed too one dimensional to be credible in her role, and not quite real.  IMO her main flaw as an actress is that when she plays "political" roles, she's always trying too hard to make them seem "correct", to use an often overused word.  Klute is the sort of movie that would've been dramatically improved by casting someone like the young Barbara Stanwyck or the young Joan Crawford, both of whom were vastly superior actresses in parts where working class realism was the first and foremost requirement to be convincing.  Among more recent actresses, either Judy Davis, Rosie Perez, and maybe even  Julia Roberts could have done a more convincing job as Bree than Fonda did.

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Sixth major point. I read some user reviews on the IMDB where people complained the film's title was KLUTE (as opposed to BREE). But I do think this is correct. In the context of this story, she comes to be defined by him. But too much goes undeveloped. The name KLUTE, mere presence of KLUTE, should be both an impediment and her potential salvation. She should be haunted by this word, this guy, and how it is threatening her own independence-- as much as she is haunted by the demented john who is stalking her. So some of this is not fully fleshed out.

 

 

I find it rather strange that TB just won't come right out and say it here, and what I think is the main problem with this film, or at least what I always found to be the problem anyway...

 

Much like Omar Sharif not being able to "carry" that David Lean movie about a doctor's experiences during the Russian Revolution and because of the "passive" and overly "restrained" manner he portrayed THAT character, I've always found Donald Sutherland's portrayal of the title character in THIS film to be in a similar manner. And thus, like Sharif, in THIS film Sutherland is, well, just, ummm...BOR-ing!

 

(...but as always, YOUR mileage..err..I mean opinion, may vary out there!)

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I find it rather strange that TB just won't come right out and say it here, and what I think is the main problem with this film, or at least what I always found to be the problem anyway...

 

Much like Omar Sharif not being able to "carry" that David Lean movie about a doctor's experiences during the Russian Revolution and because of the "passive" and overly "restrained" manner he portrayed THAT character, I've always found Donald Sutherland's portrayal of the title character in THIS film to be in a similar manner. And thus, like Sharif, in THIS film Sutherland is, well, just, ummm...BOR-ing!

 

(...but as always, YOUR mileage..err..I mean opinion, may vary out there!)

Sutherland isn't really the focus of this film though. Fonda is. 

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I find it rather strange that TB just won't come right out and say it here, and what I think is the main problem with this film, or at least what I always found to be the problem anyway...

 

Much like Omar Sharif not being able to "carry" that David Lean movie about a doctor's experiences during the Russian Revolution and because of the "passive" and overly "restrained" manner he portrayed THAT character, I've always found Donald Sutherland's portrayal of the title character in THIS film to be in a similar manner. And thus, like Sharif, in THIS film Sutherland is, well, just, ummm...BOR-ing!

 

(...but as always, YOUR mileage..err..I mean opinion, may vary out there!)

Actually, I don't think Sutherland is to blame. I feel like he has a good handle on the character he is playing (given the limitations of the script)-- but maybe it's the fault of the writing, that not enough care and attention has been placed on developing him, as much as there is on developing her. In fact, we know very little about him. We don't even know if he's married or if he has a girlfriend. So all his motivations are shown from a professional angle as a detective, but we know that he is generating interest in her so there is a personal element-- but outside of physical attraction we have nothing else to go on, nothing to see what sort of effect she is truly having on him. When you consider how undeveloped the role is, Sutherland should be lauded because it is a miracle at all we can find anything in Klute to identify with.

 

The most boring stretches of the movie in my opinion are when she is starting to show how needy she is for real human companionship and she wants him to be her babysitter-- the murder mystery is completely tossed out the window when that happens. It becomes more about her spending the night with him, than about nailing the creep on the roof-- and all the suspense disappears.

 

Also, I disliked the scene where she informs him she did not reach or-gas-m. I think he probably could have figured that out on his own. And most screenwriters will tell you that you have to show and not say-- so I think showing it on her face that she is not getting as much pleasure as he is, or even showing on his face that he is eager to please her but it is not going quite as expected, would have been more interesting-- than to have that moment of passion, and for her to tell him she didn't or-gas-m. It was handled in a very dull manner. The entire movie is full of scenes that were handled in a lackluster fashion, when it could have been so much edgier and provocative.

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Sutherland isn't really the focus of this film though. Fonda is. 

 

Yeah, I understand that, hep. It's just that I found Sutherland(and never an actor I thought was very good as being the "male lead", but was always much better in a supporting roles...I dunno, maybe it's just those "goofy" looks o' his...yeah, yeah, I'm SOOO "shallow", LOL) doesn't project a strong enough character in THIS film in order to provide a good "counter-balance" to Fonda's character.

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Actually, I don't think Sutherland is to blame. I feel like he has a good handle on the character he is playing (given the limitations of the script)-- but maybe it's the fault of the writing, that not enough care and attention has been placed on developing him, as much as there is on developing her. In fact, we know very little about him. We don't even know if he's married or if he has a girlfriend. So all his motivations are shown from a professional angle as a detective, but we know that he is generating interest in her so there is a personal element-- but outside of physical attraction we have nothing else to go on, nothing to see what sort of effect she is truly having on him. When you consider how undeveloped the role is, Sutherland should be lauded because it is a miracle at all we can find anything in Klute to identify with.

 

The most boring stretches of the movie in my opinion are when she is starting to show how needy she is for real human companionship and she wants him to be her babysitter-- the murder mystery is completely tossed out the window when that happens. It becomes more about her spending the night with him, than about nailing the creep on the roof-- and all the suspense disappears.

 

Also, I disliked the scene where she informs him she did not reach or-gas-m. I think he probably could have figured that out on his own. And most screenwriters will tell you that you have to show and not say-- so I think showing it on her face that she is not getting as much pleasure as he is, or even showing on his face that he is eager to please her but it is not going quite as expected, would have been more interesting-- than to have that moment of passion, and for her to tell him she didn't or-gas-m. It was handled in a very dull manner. The entire movie is full of scenes that were handled in a lackluster fashion, when it could have been so much edgier and provocative.

How edgy and provocative could it more have been? It was a sympathetic look at a prostitute, and that hasn't been done since the PreCodes at the time. 

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Yeah, I understand that, hep. It's just that I found Sutherland(and never an actor I thought was very good as being the "male lead", but was always much better in a supporting roles...I dunno, maybe it's just those "goofy" looks o' his...yeah, yeah, I'm SOOO "shallow", LOL) doesn't project a strong enough character in THIS film in order to provide a good "counter-balance" to Fonda's character.

I see that, but remember, his character's goal is to investigate, nothing more. 

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How edgy and provocative could it more have been? It was a sympathetic look at a prostitute, and that hasn't been done since the PreCodes at the time. 

I think it could have been edgier and more provocative in a few ways. In fact, one of the weaker aspects of the film that would be easiest of fix: the subplot involving the stalker.

 

The stalker thing could have been beefed up a little more, so that when she and the detective are getting to know each other (and getting it on) we are seeing it from the stalker's point of view. All they had to do was intercut with some outside POV shots-- signifying the stalker has now become the voyeur.

 

And I think they should have made Roy Scheider's pimp character look guilty, suggesting he was the stalker or else that he knew who the stalker was but was keeping quiet-- he could have been a perfect red herring to up the stakes, increase the suspense in these dull stretches, because we know he is possessive of Bree, but just how dangerous is he?  Instead, we get these flat romantic scenes with Bree and Klute that nearly kill the movie.

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Yeah, I understand that, hep. It's just that I found Sutherland(and never an actor I thought was very good as being the "male lead", but was always much better in a supporting roles...I dunno, maybe it's just those "goofy" looks o' his...yeah, yeah, I'm SOOO "shallow", LOL) doesn't project a strong enough character in THIS film in order to provide a good "counter-balance" to Fonda's character.

If there is one film that cries out to be shown on TCM, it's The Day of the Locust. Not only is it a great film, it's about the Old Hollywood. There really isn't one starring role -- maybe Karen Black -- but there are many great roles of equal size. I think Donald Sutherland gives a truly great performance in this film -- certainly his best performance, much as I also like him in Don't Look Now. Here he is in The Day of the Locust. Btw, do you know what his name is in the film? Homer Simpson. (The creator of "The Simpsons" credits this character with inspiring the name of his character.)

 

day+3.jpg

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How edgy and provocative could it more have been? It was a sympathetic look at a prostitute, and that hasn't been done since the PreCodes at the time.

 

Not really.  Think of Irma La Douce and Never on Sunday.  Granted that neither of these films had the hard political edge of Klute, but they both featured prostitutes who were seen in favorable lights.

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If there is one film that cries out to be shown on TCM, it's The Day of the Locust. Not only is it a great film, it's about the Old Hollywood. There really isn't one starring role -- maybe Karen Black -- but there are many great roles of equal size. I think Donald Sutherland gives a truly great performance in this film -- certainly his best performance, much as I also like him in Don't Look Now. Here he is in The Day of the Locust. Btw, do you know what his name is in the film? Homer Simpson. 

 

day+3.jpg

 

Yeah, Sutherland IS good in TDOTL alright, Swithin. Though, as you acknowledged here, it's in more of an ensemble casting. And I also think he's great in and perfectly cast in Redford's ORDINARY PEOPLE as the somewhat "weak" father, but once again, he isn't the focus of or the male lead in that one EITHER!

 

(...nope, while the guy IS a very good actor, I think his best work has always been in more of that ensemble type of thing) 

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Not really.  Think of Irma La Douce and Never on Sunday.  Granted that neither of these films had the hard political edge of Klute, but they both featured prostitutes who were seen in favorable lights.

 

Sure, just like Mae West, vaudeville and burlesque always have. I think 'Klute' has a slightly different approach to the subject of being a prostitute - don't you? Like maybe a little unpleasant realism without the titillating comedy?

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How edgy and provocative could it more have been? It was a sympathetic look at a prostitute, and that hasn't been done since the PreCodes at the time.

 

Not really.  Think of Irma La Douce and Never on Sunday.  Granted that neither of these films had the hard political edge of Klute, but they both featured prostitutes who were seen in favorable lights.

One of my favorite '60s movie prostitutes was Sophia Loren in the "Mara of Rome" segment of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

yesterday-today-and-tomorrow-famous-scen

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How edgy and provocative could it more have been? It was a sympathetic look at a prostitute, and that hasn't been done since the PreCodes at the time.

 

Not really.  Think of Irma La Douce and Never on Sunday.  Granted that neither of these films had the hard political edge of Klute, but they both featured prostitutes who were seen in favorable lights.

 

Sure, just like Mae West, vaudeville and burlesque always have. I think 'Klute' has a slightly different approach to the subject of being a prostitute - don't you? Like maybe a little unpleasant realism without the titillating comedy?

 

Well, sure, which is exactly what I meant by "neither of these films had the hard political edge of Klute."  But all three of them were sympathetic looks at prostitutes, all of them more of less in line with the prevailing sentiments about prostitutes that were shared by their respective producers. In the late 50's through the mid-60's, prostitutes were often depicted as free spirited libertines with hearts of gold, while by 1971 there was an increasing trend to see them as part victims and part strong, independent women.  Fonda's Bree was a perfect mix of both of those viewpoints.

 

Of course it's not as if the Fonda "model" of prostitution was the only one out there in 1971.  That was also the year that the former call girl Xavier Hollander published The Happy Hooker, which was closer to the Melina Mercouri Never on Sunday type than to Bree Daniels.    

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Well, sure, which is exactly what I meant by "neither of these films had the hard political edge of Klute." 

 

Didn't stop you from arguing with hepclassic's far more astute point of "How edgy and provocative could it more have been? It was a sympathetic look at a prostitute, and that hasn't been done since the PreCodes at the time."

 

If you're gonna disagree about something, try not to use such ridiculous comparisons to back up your "argument".

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Well, sure, which is exactly what I meant by "neither of these films had the hard political edge of Klute." 

 

Didn't stop you from arguing with hepclassic's far more astute point of "How edgy and provocative could it more have been? It was a sympathetic look at a prostitute, and that hasn't been done since the PreCodes at the time."

 

If you're gonna disagree about something, try not to use such ridiculous comparisons to back up your "argument".

 

Andy, your comparisons are not ridiculous. We have a very rude poster who seems to enjoy making attacks here today. It is my fervent hope the mod gives him a much-needed time out. 

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Fred,

 

Very funny post...though I think you are making a serious comment about the differences in how these women were represented in their given eras.

 

I did it as a joke and also seriously. :)

 

I think most of the girls of the 1930s in movies were more attractive and more feminine.

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Well, sure, which is exactly what I meant by "neither of these films had the hard political edge of Klute." 

 

Didn't stop you from arguing with hepclassic's far more astute point of "How edgy and provocative could it more have been? It was a sympathetic look at a prostitute, and that hasn't been done since the PreCodes at the time."

 

If you're gonna disagree about something, try not to use such ridiculous comparisons to back up your "argument".

 

DarkBlue, my response to hepclassic was little more than a point of information that there were sympathetic portrayals of prostitutes in the Code Era.  Again, I wasn't saying that Klute wasn't "edgier" or more "provocative" than Irma La Douce and Never On Sunday, and I certainly wasn't "arguing" with hepclassic. I think you're reading much more into my comment than was intended. :)

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