Cinemalphabet: K is for Klute (1971)
Jane Fonda’s unstoppable shag aside, Klute tends to leave me cold. Despite all its accolades, the film in some places feels to me like its own parody. Klute is as annoying as a hipster in an ironic pair of Fayva pumps; it just thinks it’s way edgier and cool than it really is. When really it’s from Ohio, like the rest of the hipsters. Though a legitimate Klute parody wouldn’t be unleashed on the moving going populace until 1978’s Eyes of Laura Mars. The problem with Klute is in most cases it takes itself way too seriously, as though its events have far reaching effects on anyone besides the main characters, which they don’t. In addition, Klute tries to keep the audience engaged and unhinged with excessive use of weird “stalker eye view” lens, a device, which starts to grate after awhile, thus losing all of its impact. To be fair much of my disinterest with Klute has to do with its director – Alan J. Pakula – whose work I should like a lot better than I do. I enjoy the second two films in his so-called “paranoia trilogy” : The Parallax View and All the President’s Men.
To be fair, I haven’t much cared for the way in which women’s lives are depicted in Pakula’s films whether it’s Julia Roberts damsel-in-need-of-Denzel in The Pelican Brief or Meryl’s gut-wrenching performance in Sophie’s Choice. Most of the women in Pakula’s films are smart enough to banter and be sassy, yet too stupid (as framed in the films) to possess any degree of agency or the ability to control the course of their lives. It’s tiring. These female character might talk a heap of game, but in the end they still need Jeremy Irons or Denzel or – in this case – Sutherland the father to come save their asses from whatever mess they’ve gotten into. The one occasion where I recall a Pakula film containing a woman in control involved a wife sticking it to cheating husband in way that didn’t encourage you to root for her! But since (SPOILER ALERT for another Pakula film that’s not Klute) the husband in question was played by Harrison Ford, you know I couldn’t help but root for the wife!(END OF NON KLUTE/PAKULA FILM SPOILER).
Jane Fonda stars as Bree Daniels in an Oscar-winning performance as a high class call girl! It’s a performance that seems to inform subsequent performances ranging from Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct to Julia Roberts’ own Oscar-winning performance in Erin Brokovich. It’s a riveting performance, to be sure, though every time I hear Jane Fonda say anything it always filters through my brain wonkily and ends up sounding like, “FEEL THE BURN.” What can I say, I’m a child of late 70s/early 80s. Donald Sutherland joins Fonda doing a riff on Popeye Doyle, though there’s little connection between the pair – French or otherwise. Since Sutherland’s titular Klute is never shown paying Bree to spend time with him, we are to assume she’s there by choice-ish, which at times really puts a strain on the old suspension bridge of disbelief. It’s not that Fondle and Sutherland don’t have chemistry; they do, but the chemistry seems to belong some other, more upbeat movie. Like maybe, say Ordinary People.