“What I’d really like to do is be faceless, and bodiless, and left alone.”
A small-town detective (Donald Sutherland) searching for a missing friend (Robert Milli) enlists the help of a call girl (Jane Fonda) who is being stalked by a mysterious psychopath.
- Alan J. Pakula Films
- Detectives and Private Eyes
- Donald Sutherland Films
- Jane Fonda Films
- Mysterious Disappearance
- Prostitutes and Gigolos
- Roy Scheider Films
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary refers to this psychological thriller by Alan J. Pakula as “exceptional”, pointing out Pakula’s “striking, highly atmospheric direction”, the inclusion of several “genuinely frightening” scenes, and Jane Fonda’s “remarkable” Oscar-winning performance. I agree with all of these assertions: Klute is effectively eerie in parts, gorgeously filmed by d.p. Gordon Willis, and contains one of Fonda’s best performances (Peary notes that “obviously she’s fascinated by Bree and wants to figure her out”). Unfortunately, however, the plot itself is needlessly confusing; while a second viewing helps to clarify exactly what’s going on, a really tight thriller shouldn’t require this. Yet the “murder mystery” ultimately could be seen as merely an elaborate MacGuffin, given that Klute is primarily concerned with exploring Bree’s life as a call girl, and the romantic relationship she slowly develops with Klute.
Indeed, many have noted that a more accurate title for the film would be Bree, given that she, rather than Klute, is really the central protagonist; Klute himself (Sutherland gives a mellow, restrained performance) is merely a catalyst in Bree’s well-ordered life — someone who subtly “convinces” her to open up emotionally to a man for the first time, and take a risk. Bree’s sessions with a psychotherapist (Vivian Nathan) — which were apparently semi-improvised by Fonda — are particularly revealing, and help us understand that Bree finds “her job liberating because she feels in control in her life only when turning tricks”; thus, her “movement toward real-life liberation takes a dramatic leap when she learns to trust Klute”. Fonda’s vulnerable, nuanced performance is the primary reason to watch this flawed but engaging and atmospheric film.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Jane Fonda as Bree Daniels (Peary, like the Academy, gives her an Alternate Oscar as Best Actress of the Year)
- Gordon Willis’s cinematography
Yes, for Fonda’s Oscar-winning performance. Peary nominates it as one of the Best Pictures of the Year in his Alternate Oscars.
- Noteworthy Performance(s)
- Oscar Winner or Nominee
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)