Blu-ray Review: KLUTE Channels an Era Ahead of its Time
I'd never seen Alan J. Pakula's 1971 film Klute before now. I had seen another of his films, All The President's Men, starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford and was quite impressed. Looking at his filmography, I've even more amazed to see that he also directed Sophie's Choice, and produced To Kill A Mockingbird.
To start off, Criterion's new Blu-ray release (out now) of Pakula's Klute (he produced and directed) is one of a few collaborations with master cinematographer Gordon Willis, who shot The Godfather Trilogy, Annie Hall, All The President's Men, and The Parallax View, among many other films.
This piece of cinematic excellence wowed me, quite frankly. Klute is a "slow" film compared to today's standards, which I'm willing to bet was both suspenseful and filled with dread for early 1970s audiences. Attention spans aren't what they used to be, and I'm grateful to watch a film so weird and enigmatic that it forced me to absorb every odd second. You have to pay attention every step of the way, or you may be lost. Watching Klute a second time will reveal more details and nuances that may escape you the first time around.
Jane Fonda plays Bree Daniels, a New York prostitute and aspiring actor who's got a creepy prank caller. The other lead is Donald Sutherland as John Klute, a cop who travels from Pennsylvania to NYC in search of a missing family man (which is how he meet Bree, as the missing guy was one of her clients).
The film was nominated for a slew of awards, including Best Actress for Fonda for the Oscar, Golden Globe, and others. She deserves it, too; her acting was so nutural and nuanced that it was difficult to keep my eyes anywhere but on her. She's so absolutely honest in her role; she's really something special to watch here, and I'm so glad I got the chance to see this film.
Additionally, Sutherland was a very generous actor here; he played his role straight, but with a strange affect, like a prototype for Agent Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks. Together, they're quite interesting to watch. Roy Scheider has a small role as Bree's pimp, and even though he was as subdued as he could have been, I wanted to see more of him here. The chemistry between Scheider and Fonda was palpable, as it should have been, and as few actors seem to be together, these days.
From there, Klute hunts down a killer of women (and men), while also falling charm to Bree. But will she survive? Will their relationship? The fun is in the journey, not the ultimate destination (although I found the ambigous ending quite fitting).
The film looks and sounds fantastic. Kudos to Criterion for once again restoring a gem of American cinema for all to see and relish. The bonus features were also interesting to watch, and it was enriching to read the enclosed booklet with an essay and excerpts from an interview with Pakula.
- New, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised by camera operator Michael Chapman, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- New interview with actor Jane Fonda, conducted by actor Illeana Douglas
- New program about Klute and director Alan J. Pakula by filmmaker Matthew Miele, featuring interviews with film scholar Annette Insdorf, filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, and actor Charles Cioffi, along with archival interviews with Pakula
- The Look of “Klute,” a new interview with writer Amy Fine Collins
- Archival interviews with Pakula and Fonda
- “Klute” in New York, a short documentary made during the shooting of the film
- PLUS: An essay by critic Mark Harris and excerpts from a 1972 interview with Pakula
- New cover by Jay Shaw
I can't recommend adding Klute to your home video collection enough. It's a neo-noir that feels so much more personal, not to mention far more ahead of its time than when it was released. It seems as if by watching the film, you're simultaneously climbing into a time capsule while experiencing a film more advanced than most in terms of how it was shot and directed (and therefore far more modern). It seems strange to say, but it's how I felt.
You can read up a bit more and order Klute over on Criterion's site here. Enjoy.
- Alan J. Pakula
- Andy Lewis
- David E. Lewis
- Jane Fonda
- Donald Sutherland
- Charles Cioffi
- Roy Scheider