Eclipse Series 9: The Delirious Fictions of William Klein

Discuss DVDs released in the Eclipse and Essential Art House lines and the films on them.
Post Reply
Message
Author
User avatar
Jeff
Posts: 5699
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 9:49 pm
Location: Denver, CO

Eclipse Series 9: The Delirious Fictions of William Klein

#1 Post by Jeff » Fri Dec 14, 2007 7:23 pm

ECLIPSE SERIES 9: THE DELIRIOUS FICTIONS OF WILLIAM KLEIN

Image

William Klein's explosive, challenging New York street photography made him one of the most heralded artists of the fifties. An American expatriate in Paris, Klein has also been making challenging cinema for over forty years, yet, with the exception of his acclaimed 1969 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 imperialism, and middle-class complacency with hilarious, cutting aplomb. Today, Klein's politically galvanizing and insanely entertaining social critiques seem even more ahead of their time than works of the more famous New Wavers that overshadowed them: colorful, surreal antidotes to all forms of social oppression.

The Model Couple

Image

In 1977 France, the Ministry of the Future chooses two average, white, middle-class citizens, Claudine (Anemone) and Jean-Michel (André Dussolier), for a national experiment. They will be monitored and displayed 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." An unusually prescient depiction of the breakdown of individual freedoms in the face of an increasingly mechanized consumer culture, William Klein's The Model Couple deftly satirizes a modern age out of control.

Mr. Freedom

Image

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

Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?

Image

After a nearly decade as Vogue's most subversive fashion photographer, William Klein made this wild, pseudo-vérité peek into the world of Parisian haute couture—and was summarily released from his contract at the magazine. Elegant, scathing humor ties together the various strands of this alternately glamorous and grotesque portrait of American in Paris Polly Maggoo (Dorothy MacGowan), a mannequin-like supermodel who becomes the pin-up 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 ravishing black-and-white.
Last edited by Jeff on Fri Dec 14, 2007 7:43 pm, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
kaujot
Posts: 1936
Joined: Mon May 08, 2006 6:28 pm
Location: Austin
Contact:

#2 Post by kaujot » Fri Dec 14, 2007 7:32 pm

I'd never heard of William Klein before, but the descriptions have got me sold on, at the very least, a Netflix.

BrightEyes23
Posts: 178
Joined: Tue Dec 28, 2004 9:46 am

#3 Post by BrightEyes23 » Fri Dec 14, 2007 7:39 pm

excellent release! I've heard many good things about Polly Magoo, and this release seems like the ideal situation for Eclipse to settle into once they get their backlog of titles of CC staple directors (i.e. Kurosawa, Bergman, Ozu).

User avatar
Cold Bishop
Posts: 2162
Joined: Tue May 30, 2006 9:45 pm
Location: Portland, OR

#4 Post by Cold Bishop » Fri Dec 14, 2007 7:49 pm

Behind Ozu, this may be the best Eclipse set yet. I've been wanting to see Mr. Freedom since I saw it on Rosenbaum's 1000 greatest list and the rest of them sound fantastic.

User avatar
Cinephrenic
Posts: 2502
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 2:58 pm
Location: Paris, Texas

#5 Post by Cinephrenic » Fri Dec 14, 2007 7:53 pm

I'm quite pleased to see this release. I think its important for Criterion to focus on avant-garde as well as any other genre.

User avatar
jbeall
Posts: 2232
Joined: Sat Aug 12, 2006 9:22 am
Location: Atlanta-ish

#6 Post by jbeall » Fri Dec 14, 2007 7:57 pm

kaujot wrote:I'd never heard of William Klein before, but the descriptions have got me sold on, at the very least, a Netflix.
My thoughts exactly. And if the films turn out to be half as interesting as they appear here, that netflix rental will quickly become a purchase.

This is far bolder than a lot of the releases on the criterion line, and an affordable set of films by a pretty unknown filmmaker. I'd have never heard of Klein if they hadn't put this release together. Rather than more Bergman, Kurosawa, etc., this is absolutely the sort of release I hope for from Eclipse.
=D>
Last edited by jbeall on Fri Dec 14, 2007 8:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Cronenfly
Posts: 1046
Joined: Thu Jul 19, 2007 12:04 pm

#7 Post by Cronenfly » Fri Dec 14, 2007 8:01 pm

Has anyone seen these/can comment on them? I knew nothing about them before reading the synopses (they were akin to the Makavejevs on the obscurity scale for me), but they look like the kind of thing I enjoy (i.e. crazy, avant-garde shit from the '60s/'70s). Happy to see Eclipse release something ballsier again, though, whether the films disappoint or not.
Last edited by Cronenfly on Fri Dec 14, 2007 8:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
HerrSchreck
Posts: 6324
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 am

#8 Post by HerrSchreck » Fri Dec 14, 2007 8:05 pm

It's quasi-gutsy, I'll give them that... and I'm sure there are close friends in the biz who have been begging them for this here & there. Along the lines of a lot of bfi material which comes out at a steady clip. But it won't sell very well at all.

But I almost had a squirting embolism jet thru my nose at the suggestion that this was superior to Bernard. OUCH!

User avatar
Shrew
Posts: 680
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 2:22 am

#9 Post by Shrew » Fri Dec 14, 2007 8:05 pm

I love that they're titled "The Delirious Fictions". My interest in this set increased ten times just by that.

User avatar
Cold Bishop
Posts: 2162
Joined: Tue May 30, 2006 9:45 pm
Location: Portland, OR

#10 Post by Cold Bishop » Fri Dec 14, 2007 8:11 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:But I almost had a squirting embolism jet thru my nose at the suggestion that this was superior to Bernard. OUCH!
In my defense, I haven't seen the Bernard set in question. I'm trying hold off on renting the thing so I'll be forced to eventually getting around and buying it. I do have to say, I'm more excited for this set than I was for the Bernard. What can I do? The Bernard films will probably blow me away when I see them, but I find the type of films Klein made (as well as being a fan of his photographs), as far as blind buys go, much more appealing.

User avatar
arsonfilms
Posts: 686
Joined: Wed Nov 02, 2005 12:53 pm
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Contact:

#11 Post by arsonfilms » Fri Dec 14, 2007 8:28 pm

I think that this set is comparable to Bernard in that its closer to what we'd all hoped Eclipse would be - major works by very minor directors, rather than minor works by very major directors. That said, I doubt very much that these will be quite as good as the Bernards, but thats a pretty high standard to hold anything to.

ALSO:

I'd like to ask that we add "quote of the year" to the ongoing forum awards, and I'd like to cast my vote for "Squirting Embolism."

jaredsap
Posts: 397
Joined: Tue Jun 05, 2007 1:24 am
Location: Los Angeles

#12 Post by jaredsap » Fri Dec 14, 2007 8:49 pm

Really, really exciting. I've been hoping for these ever since they were discussed on Criterion's blog last February.

User avatar
jbeall
Posts: 2232
Joined: Sat Aug 12, 2006 9:22 am
Location: Atlanta-ish

#13 Post by jbeall » Fri Dec 14, 2007 8:50 pm

arsonfilms wrote:I think that this set is comparable to Bernard in that its closer to what we'd all hoped Eclipse would be - major works by very minor directors, rather than minor works by very major directors. That said, I doubt very much that these will be quite as good as the Bernards, but thats a pretty high standard to hold anything to.

ALSO:

I'd like to ask that we add "quote of the year" to the ongoing forum awards, and I'd like to cast my vote for "Squirting Embolism."
"Squirting embolism" isn't even one of Schreck's top five, IMO... :lol:

For me, the Bernard set was really the revelation of a quite "major" director whose work had been unjustly neglected. Since that release, I've pestered Criterion and Milestone with emails suggesting that they get their hands on more Bernard (and if you haven't seen The Chess Player, you should[/i]). I'd call them "less well-known" director instead, as I think the handful of his films that I've seen stands up against anybody's work.

User avatar
justeleblanc
Posts: 2688
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 6:05 pm
Location: Connecticut

#14 Post by justeleblanc » Fri Dec 14, 2007 9:17 pm

This is a must have. I recorded Polly Magoo of television a few months ago (it looked like shit, I hope Eclipse has found a better print) and quite enjoyed it.

User avatar
Via_Chicago
Posts: 360
Joined: Fri Aug 11, 2006 12:03 pm

#15 Post by Via_Chicago » Fri Dec 14, 2007 9:18 pm

jbeall wrote:For me, the Bernard set was really the revelation of a quite "major" director whose work had been unjustly neglected. Since that release, I've pestered Criterion and Milestone with emails suggesting that they get their hands on more Bernard (and if you haven't seen The Chess Player, you should[/i]). I'd call them "less well-known" director instead, as I think the handful of his films that I've seen stands up against anybody's work.
You beat me to the punch. Bernard is obviously a major French director, if not of the early sound period, than certainly of the silent period. His Miracle des Loups is considered one of the landmark French silents and was hugely influential on pictures thereafter, silent or sound. It's only an unfortunate twist of fate that a brilliant filmmaker like Bernard receives only scant recognition in the States while Pagnol and his hackwork is considered somehow sublime or brilliant. Again, "less well-known" or "unrecognized" would be a better turn of phrase than "minor," at least as it relates to Bernard.

William Klein on the other hand could possibly be considered minor, at least insofar as this was his impact on the American avant-garde/independent scene. That's not to say that this is not a worthwhile set, it may well be, and I'm happy to see Criterion is doing something other than releasing more titles from established art-house auteurs like Bergman and Malle. Still, it's not quite the same as releasing a Brakhage Eclipse set that contained, say, Dog Star Man or something. Hell, as a friend pointed out, it's not even like releasing rare French avant-garde feature Deux Fois (which is a masterpiece by the way).

User avatar
zedz
Posts: 10353
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:24 pm

#16 Post by zedz » Fri Dec 14, 2007 9:39 pm

Now this is more like it. Eclipse releases should get people going "what the hell is this?" For the curious, I think these films have been out in Europe for a while and I'm sure they've been mentioned on the forum several times.

User avatar
Lino
"Without obsession, life is nothing"
Posts: 3529
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 6:18 am
Location: Sitting End
Contact:

#17 Post by Lino » Fri Dec 14, 2007 9:45 pm

Cronenfly wrote:Has anyone seen these/can comment on them? I knew nothing about them before reading the synopses (they were akin to the Makavejevs on the obscurity scale for me), but they look like the kind of thing I enjoy (i.e. crazy, avant-garde shit from the '60s/'70s). Happy to see Eclipse release something ballsier again, though, whether the films disappoint or not.
Fuck! I've been asking Criterion about Klein's films ad nauseum and the answer was always no. And now this!

People, you will not believe your eyes when you finally see this! These movies are amazing to watch, highly energetic, thought-provoking AND fun to boot! I'm only sorry that they ended up on Eclipse because they are bona-fide Criterion nominees.

I probably will end up buying this set just to upgrade on my japanese DVDs (which really show their age and are not restored) and to get Model Couple, which I do not have yet.

A note of warning: I really hope the print used on Mr. Freedom is totally uncut because my japanese DVD is not. Oh, and The Delirious Fictions of William Klein is such a ludicrous title... :roll:

User avatar
Floyd
Posts: 174
Joined: Fri Nov 05, 2004 10:25 pm

#18 Post by Floyd » Fri Dec 14, 2007 10:53 pm

This is the most excited a Criterion release has made me in awhile. I am giddy to see these.

And yes the title of this is a real choice.

evillights
Posts: 223
Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2004 2:47 pm
Location: U.S.
Contact:

#19 Post by evillights » Sat Dec 15, 2007 12:23 am

Via_Chicago wrote: It's only an unfortunate twist of fate that a brilliant filmmaker like Bernard receives only scant recognition in the States while Pagnol and his hackwork is considered somehow sublime or brilliant. Again, "less well-known" or "unrecognized" would be a better turn of phrase than "minor," at least as it relates to Bernard.

William Klein on the other hand could possibly be considered minor, at least insofar as this was his impact on the American avant-garde/independent scene. That's not to say that this is not a worthwhile set, it may well be, and I'm happy to see Criterion is doing something other than releasing more titles from established art-house auteurs like Bergman and Malle. Still, it's not quite the same as releasing a Brakhage Eclipse set that contained, say, Dog Star Man or something. Hell, as a friend pointed out, it's not even like releasing rare French avant-garde feature Deux Fois (which is a masterpiece by the way).
One might never know from the deluge of unmitigated enthusiasm on the Criterion Forum, or the copy on the back of the actual Bernard set, or any (or just many?) of the reviews of Bernard's films, but -- and I'm writing this as a warning for the cinephiles -- the real revelation for me, tumbling down following the nurtured hope that I was going to discover some "lost" figure (albeit one whose films are easily licensable by Gaumont for anyone who will step up to take the risk of releasing these works that are not as well known) on the level of Vigo or Renoir, or Astruc or Guitry, or Leenhardt or Demy, or Rohmer or Franju, or Moullet or Garrel, -- or, as grandly, and although an American filmmaker, one I imagined beforehand as a potential parallel: King Vidor -- is that Bernard turns out to be a card-carrying member of the "tradition of quality".

Wooden Crosses taken on its own is probably, in all fairness, as offensive a piece of film as The Battle of Algiers. The schematization of the destined-to-die heroes, highlighted in that little "introduction" scene in the courtyard, is almost as pathetic as Charles Vanel's death scene, in which Bernard does what Renoir never would have: Pulled back on the truth (the human truth) at the moment Vanel implores the destined-to-die protagonist to let his wife know what a cheating bitch she was -- "No.. no... on second thought, tell her... tell her that she must be better from now..." Both Renoir, and Shakespeare, would have let him die gurgling the oath -- finally, this character would have had something more to his presence than a strategic positioning as mere "gruff colonel-figure" or whatever his rank was -- we'd know him beyond Archetype, know something of pain, deceit, unforgiveness -- taken to the grave and unrepentantly.

Les Misérables = René Clément + Carol Reed, except very clumsy in aspects like, as one example, the simple dramaturgic staging of "an event"/"the story action": the lifting-the-cart-off-the-peasants scene early on pretty much broke my camel's back. Of course I'm sad that there turned out not to be any 'discovery' after all, but seeing both pictures did help to elucidate why Bernard was never discussed in the Cahiers or other front-line annals over the course of the last century: he wasn't worth discussing. That said, I don't begrudge the release of these films at all, because sometimes we need to be able to be reminded what it means for a filmmaker to fail, or (spoiled as we are) to see what a "bad filmmaker" looks like once again, or, by exact contrast, what it means to say that "Renoir was great" -- for his greatness went far beyond head-scratching lighting effects, or 'hushed tonality'.

Releases like the Bernard set also help us have some perspective on the history of cinema: that is, just because the 'equipment' of the soundstage eras facilitates a certain aesthetico-technical effect that is "pleasing to look at" or "painterly" or whatever, one must be capable of feeling what else there 'is' or 'is not' to a film, and realize that with certain filmmakers, regardless of however much of the 'protective skin' of the '30s cinema's technical processes they were able to wrap their contemporary work in by default, some really were no different than a kind of, say, "Luc Besson of their day." This is one of the great virtues of the Eclipse series in fact.

I'm looking forward to these Klein films a whole lot -- especially Polly Maggoo. Releases such as this, or the forthcoming Gorins, make speculation about an eventual set devoted to the Zanzibar group (picking up on the Deux fois mention above) seem not so far-fetched after all.

craig.

User avatar
HerrSchreck
Posts: 6324
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 am

#20 Post by HerrSchreck » Sat Dec 15, 2007 1:02 am

craig I haven't done it in a while but I did once have some repute as a gag hypnotist, and once helped a kid (I'm not joking) get over his stage fright so he could become a functional performer. Within a couple months he got a principal part in Tony & Tina's Wedding on Broadway. And I once hypnotized a friend of a friends sister to laugh so hard at my friends' sister's feet that when I snapped her up and she started laughing so hard it got really really scary because she was crawling around gasping trailing spit streamers behind her stabbing and pounding at the floor her face a giant hot waterbottle of suffocation and spit. I hadta evacuate quick and snap her back down and reset her to "pre-feet" mode, if you will, whereby when we brought her back up and we explained to her how close to gagging she came she freaked out (remembering none of it) and refused forthwith to ever be in the same room with me ever again.

I repeat these Genuinely True Tales as a sort of advertisement for Breakthrough... as a possibility. Even though I havent done it in a while, I mention it because there is such a sense of seething tremorous anger raging through your post I kind of get the sense you want to Punch folks for digging the Bernard Masterworks. As a routine I see you going through a violent posting system which seems to involve 1) identifying the reviled enemy-- Tradition of Quality, 2) attaching it to your target film, and 3) snarling and sinking your teeth into the skin (hairy!) into the film and those who love them..

I'd suggest you are Way Too Hung Up On Tradition Of Quality. You're calling a director whose masterpieces resided in the silent and early sound era Tradition of Quality, which came to be associated (by vastly overrated dudes from the Vague) with Franco Italian agreements connected with cinematic market sustenance in the immediate postwar era but more likely 1949 thereabouts into the 50's. SO there is no way that Mr. Bernard could be a card carrying member of the CNC. A typical film would be Casque D'Or perhaps?

Forget that term. It's outmoded and it's not 1960's France anymore where young unemployed writers needed to yell at the insular old folks to get jobs in the biz. It's not relevant anymore as an "expletive". The young men all duly shocked the industry, got jobs, and became the Tradtion of Quality themselves essentially. It's now a historic term in it's neutral sense, describing a planning tool hoped to level off markets, not defame late silent and early sound masterworks (!!!??) Calling the Bernard films "formula films" (the essence of the industrial needs viz TOQ) is about the biggest howler on the board. Hypnosis can wash that Truf right outa your hair, and you will see the poetry in Bernard and leap up screaming and throw your fist right thru your glass window, smiling as you shake your bloody knuckles out in the sunlight "Free at last, free at last.. thank godomighty-- I Am Free At Last!!!"

User avatar
Satanas
Posts: 9
Joined: Tue Dec 11, 2007 1:03 am
Location: Phoenix, AZ

#21 Post by Satanas » Sat Dec 15, 2007 1:19 am

Sweet chocolate-covered baby Jesus. :shock:

I emailed Criterion about the possibility of a Polly Magoo release on Wednesday. I didn't expect a reply, nor did I actually think they would release Polly in the first place (sheer wishful thinking on my part). And now I have to go crawling on my knees on my den floor, picking up pieces of my gray matter and fragments of skull, seeing as my mind has been blown to bits at the news of a fucking William Klein boxset.

Hopefully the next Eclipse announcement won't be Eclipse Series 10: Five Films By Bela Tarr (100% Facets Pigeon-Crapping Transfer Free); news of that magnitude would probably make my poor heart go boom-boom-kablewy.

User avatar
justeleblanc
Posts: 2688
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 6:05 pm
Location: Connecticut

#22 Post by justeleblanc » Sat Dec 15, 2007 3:01 am

Satanas wrote:Hopefully the next Eclipse announcement won't be Eclipse Series 10: Five Films By Bela Tarr (100% Facets Pigeon-Crapping Transfer Free); news of that magnitude would probably make my poor heart go boom-boom-kablewy.
Funny you say that. Not to go off on a tangent, but the hold-up for Facets to release SATANTANGO could mean that Criterion is intervening.

Back to the Klein, the title of the box set totally conjurs up a Dickens title. Oh man, I agree, this is exactly what Eclipse should be!

User avatar
Satanas
Posts: 9
Joined: Tue Dec 11, 2007 1:03 am
Location: Phoenix, AZ

#23 Post by Satanas » Sat Dec 15, 2007 3:35 am

justeleblanc wrote:Funny you say that. Not to go off on a tangent, but the hold-up for Facets to release SATANTANGO could mean that Criterion is intervening.

Back to the Klein, the title of the box set totally conjurs up a Dickens title. Oh man, I agree, this is exactly what Eclipse should be!
Man, I would be more than willing to sacrifice a goat and/or a handful of small housepets to ANY deity that could make a Criterion "Satantango" a reality.

Let's hope that Eclipse has plenty more of these totally out-of-left-field releases in store for us. I mean, seriously, did ANYONE have any idea they were planning to release this thing?

User avatar
Doctor Sunshine
Posts: 539
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 10:04 pm
Location: Brain Jail

#24 Post by Doctor Sunshine » Sat Dec 15, 2007 7:31 am

Well, I've been impatiently awaiting the latter two since they mentioned them in their blog last February--although... little bit disappointed they're not main line releases. Anyway, the more untapped talents the better. We've received more than our share of the world's greatest and now's the time to fulfill on the eye-opening discoveries half of the mission statement. A Suzuki set would be nice though.

User avatar
Awesome Welles
Posts: 1000
Joined: Fri Apr 27, 2007 6:02 am
Location: London

#25 Post by Awesome Welles » Sat Dec 15, 2007 8:11 am

This sounds fantastic! I think I'll be picking this up. Much more what I expected Elcipse to be.

Post Reply