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Both a thriller and a Kafkaesque dissertation on identity, Joseph Losey's Mr. Klein stars Alain Delon (Le Samorai, Le Cercle rouge) as Robert Kleina charming and unscrupulous art dealer in Nazi-occupied France. As Jews flee Paris, Klein exploits them, preying on their desperation by buying their valuables at a fraction of their worth...until he finds his name is shared by a Jewish criminal who is a member of the anti-Nazi resistance. Klein reports this to the authorities only to find he is uncontrollably sinking into the quicksand of mistaken identity. Co-starring Jeanne Moreau (La Femme Nikita), Mr. Klein is an award-winning suspense classic that studies the ever-changing relationship between victim and oppressor.
- Liner Notes by film critic and cinema studies professor Edwin Jahiel
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Now the film is available on a high-quality DVD from Home Vision (which manufactures Criterion DVDs). The transfer is very fine, with the broad color pallette ringing out. And the widescreen aspect of the film can be appreciated by many who have never seen it look so good.
MR. KLEIN is a work of which its director should have been proud. It's intelligent, intriguing, moving, funny, and beautiful. Like THE SERVANT, it has at its center an ambiguous hero by whom one is, at turns, repelled and attracted.
This may also be the greatest acting achievement of Alain Delon. The charismatic French actor's still-stunning good looks sometimes can distract from appreciating his genuine talent. Delon probably never gave a bad performance in any film. But MR. KLEIN provides him with a wide range and depth that he is more than capable of handling. It's mostly a quiet performance, with few outbursts. Delon is required to react, which he does brilliantly at several points, or to express the meaning of scene through posture and facial expression alone. One subtle example is the scene early on, where the mistress is on the bed in the background, wondering if she should get up. Delon is seated at his desk, half-listening to her trivialities. He has far more pressing issues on his mind. The actor perfectly conveys the ambivalent, trapped situation through small body gestures and tone of voice. When he finally rises to address the mistress's concerns, his forced tone is also exactly right for the moment. Later, Delon plays Klein's mixture of desperation and arrogance with so much conviction, it's easy to forget he is, after all, acting.
MR. KLEIN is a film of rich interiors, and eye-catching, but not ostentatious, location shooting. It looks tremendous on DVD and it can leave the viewer devastated, but undeniably impressed by the genius of Joseph Losey and Alain Delon.
A trailer for MR. KLEIN is also included
Je Vous Zaime Beaucoup.
This is a cinematic tour-de-force by one of its greatest auteurs---Joseph Losey ("The Go-Between" 1970, is easily one of my favorite films of all-time). The screenplay by Franco Solinas ("La Battaglia di Algeri" 1966, "Burn!" 1969, "Etat de Siege" 1972) and Fernando Morandi, struck me for its reference to Goethe and lent itself well to Losey's Brechtian-style. Alain Delon gave a magnificent and enigmatic performance and the rest of the cast were all very good too: Michel Lonsdale, Jeanne Moreau, Francine Berge, Juliet Berto, etc. There was a scene early on, of a Jewish woman being examined by a doctor (a would-be eugenicist), where he verbally scrutinized her facial characteristics for their supposedly non-Aryan traits (where evidently to anyone, the woman's racial characteristics were very European). This early scene was important in understanding the subtext to the overall story: as to what happens when people are subjected to irrational and arbitrary "authority". The condemnation of the French people's silent complicity in the face of injustice meted-out to their fellow compatriots (the Jewish population of France was one of the largest in Western Europe where they had long since assimilated into a European way of life), is clearly one of the film's central points. And the film's message was ambiguously one of irony and remorse: 'I am French, I am Catholic, I am a Jew, I am You.' I'm glad I got the chance to see it again, this is the kind of film that needs multiple viewings over a period of time. Not to be missed, a powerful examination of the human-being in all of us.
The DVD picture and sound quality by Homevision is excellent. The film is also in its proper aspect ratio of 1.66:1 NTSC, French (English subtitles), NR 123 mins.
Love and Peace,
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