Wednesday, 3 December 2008

More ways to waste time


William Klein’s explosive New York street photography made him one of the most heralded artists of the sixties. An American expatriate in Paris, Klein has also been making challenging cinema for more than forty years, yet with the exception of his acclaimed documentary Muhammad Ali, the Greatest, his film work is barely known in the United States. In his three fiction features—Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?, Mr. Freedom, and The Model Couple—he skewers the fashion industry, American empire, and governmental mind control with hilarious, cutting aplomb. Today Klein’s politically galvanizing social critiques seem even more acute than the works of the better-known New Wavers. These are colorful, surreal antidotes to all forms of social oppression.

The Model Couple, 1977

In 1977 France, the Ministry of the Future chooses two “normal,” white, middle-class citizens, Claudine (Anémone) and Jean-Michel (André Dussolier), for a national experiment. They will be monitored and displayed on television for six months in a model apartment outfitted with state-of-the-art products and nonstop surveillance—the template for “a new city for the new man.” A searing satire of the breakdown of individual freedoms in the face of increasing governmental invasions of privacy, William Klein’s The Model Couple deftly investigates the fine line between democracy and totalitarianism.

Who are you, Polly Maggoo?, 1966

After a nearly decade as American Vogue‘s most subversive fashion photographer, William Klein made this wild, pseudovérité incursion into the world of Parisian haute couture. Elegant, scathing humor ties together the various strands of this alternately glamorous and grotesque portrait of American in Paris Polly Maggoo (Dorothy MacGowan), an Alice in Wonderland supermodel who becomes the pinup plaything of media hounds and the fragmented fantasy of haunted Prince Igor (Sami Frey). Klein’s first fiction film is a daring deflation of cultural pretensions and institutions, dressed up in brilliant black and white.

Mr. Freedom, 1969

William Klein moved into more blatantly political territory with this hilarious, vicious Vietnam-era lampoon of imperialist American foreign policy. Mr. Freedom (John Abbey), a bellowing good-ol’-boy superhero decked out in copious football padding, jets to France to cut off a Commie invasion from Switzerland. A destructive, arrogant patriot in tight pants, Freedom joins forces with Marie Madeleine (a satirically sexy Delphine Seyrig) to combat lefty freethinkers, as well as the insidious evildoers Moujik Man and inflatable Red China Man, culminating in a star-spangled showdown of kitschy excess. Delightfully crass, Mr. Freedom is a trenchant, rib-tickling takedown of gaudy modern Americana.

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An Aesthete's Lament said...

I believe Dorothy MacGowan dropped off the face of the planet after that film. Wikipedia states only that she married a French photographer and had two children.

An Aesthete's Lament said...

I'm wrong; Dorothy MacGowan Dorot lives in Mamaroneck, New York.