Respected businessman,Tom Gruneman, has disappeared, and his friend, detective John Klute (Donald Sutherland), is on the case. There is only one clue: An obscene letter written by Tom to a New York City call girl named Bree (Jane Fonda). Klute finds her and enters her tawdry world; gradually they fall for each other. As one clue leads to another, two of Bree's friends are killed, and it's clear that she is being stalked by a madman.
Fonda certainly deserved her Best Actress Oscar for this raw and powerful role. Bree is bold and confident on the job, but terrified of feeling any real emotion. She is vulnerable and afraid for her life, and even more afraid of actually caring for Klute. Sutherland is very good as the poker-faced detective who is initially repulsed by Bree's life. Roy Scheider has a small but memorable role as a ruthless pimp. Michael Small's eerie soundtrack is guaranteed to give you chills, and the taut script will keep you on the edge of your seat. This scary thriller (with no violence) has lost none of its intensity since 1971; it delivers top-notch performances.
on 12 May 2002
Klute is more than good. Good films make you say to yourself “That was clever” or “Gee, I didn’t expect that”. Klute is a different animal; it is more involving and gets under your skin. It is a personal film. Maybe it’s just me but I really felt something after I watched it.
Klute is the last name of a detective (Sutherland) who is searching for a missing man. Much of the story focuses on a call girl named Bree (Fonda) the last person to see the missing person alive. The film explores the dark side of male sexual fantasy and effects on women which are involved in them. It is not a guilty pleasure movie or a heavy handed melodrama. It is a wonderfully mature, sensitive, subtle film which shows its subject matter in an honest light.
It is a unique film. A film that, in its own way, is so perfect. I could talk about how it was shot and the wonderful use of sound but I won’t. Klute is more than good, it is film to relate to, and treats its audience with considerable respect. It is movie which makes you feel something.
Alan Pakula’s 1971 film was one of a number of the period (of heightened US political concerns – Vietnam, Watergate, etc) dealing with paranoia and conspiracy – Pakula’s follow-up films in his ‘paranoia trilogy’, The Parallax View and All The President’s Men and Coppola’s The Conversation, being particularly notable examples. Pakula’s deceptively understated (almost easy-going) style again works well in Klute, as an industrial executive goes missing and Donald Sutherland’s friend of the family and detective John Klute attempts to unearth the mystery, starting with a connection to Jane Fonda’s ‘up market’ New York call-girl, Bree Daniels.
For me, Pakula’s film pretty much starts and ends with Fonda’s Oscar-winning and (alongside the likes of The China Syndrome and They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?) career-best performance. Daniels provides Fonda with the sort of role that actresses no doubt cry out for (but rarely get) – a complex mix of, outwardly, smart-talking, confident (playful, seductive and hilariously matter-of-fact in her 'professional’ life) and, inwardly, insecure (attending a 'shrink’), chronically dispassionate and looking to change ‘careers’ – and the actress delivers with a performance of great emotional range. Sutherland is also good, if perhaps a little too understated, whilst elsewhere Charles Cioffi is particularly impresses as the deceased’s erstwhile work colleague, the shady, paranoid Peter Cable and Roy Scheider puts in a solid turn as Daniel’s ex-pimp, the coolly sleazy Frank Ligourin. Pakula (and cinematographer Gordon Willis) also capture the era nicely – this is a time of 'squares’, flares, kipper ties and dodgy disco dancing, as well as increasingly casual drug use (uncompromisingly presented).
For me, Pakula’s signposting of the plot detracts slightly from the gradual build-up of tension, but Fonda’s delivery of the film’s brilliant denouement scene (one of which Hitchcock would have been proud) is simply stunning and crowns a very fine performance indeed.
This great classic is an interesting watch, but it is also a very, very strange film, hard to rate and even more difficult to categorize. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.
John Klute (Donald Sutherland) is a private detective based in the good town of Tuscarora, PA. Recently, an old friend of his, Tom Gruneman, disappeared without a trace during a business trip to New York and the police was unable to find him. Tom's wife Holly and his business partner, Peter Cable, hire Klute to find him. It seems to be a very difficult investigation, considering that the only lead is a letter which Tom supposedly addressed to an expensive call girl named Bree Daniel (Jane Fonda) - or this woman is absolutely uncooperative and initially refuses even to talk to Klute...
As I already mentioned, this film is very hard to categorize. It begins like a kind of neo-film noir, but then quickly turns rather into a kind of psychological drama mixed with soft porn. And even if the criminal mystery retains its importance to the end, it is the relationship between Klute and Bree that is the central element of the film. Also, the title is, maybe on purpose, confusing, as it appears quite quickly that it is not Klute but Bree who is the real main character of the film.
The character of Bree is somehow disturbing. She is an extremely attractive woman per se, but the way she talks and the things she says add even more to the already explosive melange - in fact, she is an almost perfect temptress. With her looks and wits she could very easily abandon prostitution and become the trophy wife of some obscenely rich guy - but it seems that for her turning tricks is a kind of compulsion. This obsessional need felt by Bree to sell herself, sometimes in fact rather cheap if it is a slow day, is a rather disturbing thing and it makes the watching of this film by moments slightly uncomfortable. Clearly, somebody one day damaged this incredibly beautiful woman so badly, that it seems doubtful that she can ever recover.
Klute is clearly also damaged goods, although he is without a doubt a redoubtable and efficient investigator, certainly too good for the relatively little town from which he comes. But his relations with people and especially with women are DEFINITELY not easy and comfortable. Therefore, this film is mostly about two very different, very badly scarred and damaged and very, very insecure and suspicious people who engage in long, slow and complicated seduction/rejection dance, with a mixture of care and dare which made me think of a mating ritual between two badly wounded porcupines...)))
It is a strange, even weird film, with a unique, unsettling atmosphere and some pretty steamy scenes and Jane Fonda very deservedly got an Oscar for this role - although her backless dress certainly helped her a lot in it...)))
I am ultimately rather glad that I finally discovered this movie and I think I will keep the DVD for a possible another watching - but it will not be before some time. This is not exactly a film you want to re-watch more than once a couple of years.
on 9 August 2015
Klute is one of Pakula's masterpiece from his 70s filmography. This director, although making films that became quite famous, was never enough considered as much as other famous directors of his time. Yet, by watching his films now, you can tell he was one the best and most interesting, showing a style that after 40 years is still unique and ahead of his time. His use of all cinema aspects and assets (a geometric visual style, an abstract photography, a smart use of sound and an editing style that never shows of, often keeps the pace slow and works on long shot as well as on "off-beat" cuts) to always give a sense of alienation, detachment, unease state of mind and a silent yet dramatic disorientation that involve characters as well as viewers. Watching his films when I was younger (this + Parallax View and All the President's men) I didn't get how great he was but not, as I got a little more expert about films and can tell the difference between showing off direction and a (not)narrative one, I really appreciate him. Klute is a director's film as well as an actors' one. The 2 main actors are really great (maybe it's Fonda's best performance) and for the same reason Pakula does a great job: because they don't overact. It's a strange and original attempt to make a noir film about the dark and disoriented 70s America, and it reminds me, somehow, of a not so different film, maybe Coppola's masterpiece, "The Conversation".
on 19 June 2013
This Pakula-film is seen as one of his three masterpieces. It is certainly original and interesting, but slightly unnerving too. The fantastical Bree Daniels (Jane Fonda) is difficult to understand, but she is no traditional and dull stereotype. She won her Oscar, well deserved.
on 10 May 2000
This is a great movie - a landmark film in the history of cinema, as well as the careers of Jane Fonda and the late, great Alan J. Pakula. This is a very adult, very interesting, very strange thriller - unique. The story of a private detective forming a relationship with a prostitute to help solve a disappearance of his client's husband is interesting. However it is the attention to character that sets this film apart - and makes it a true 'classic'. Jane Fonda's first Academy Award winning performance is spellbinding - truly unforgettable. Watch out for the last scene when she has to deal with many emotions - sadness at the loss of her friend; fear for her life; betrayal of John Klute's employer; her unconcluded desire to stop being a prostitute - Ms. Fonda responds to such an emotionally cumulative scene with such artistry it is impossible to forget. Alan J. Pakula's direction never diverts attention from the characters or story - yet is vital to the eerie and interest provoking quality of the movie - quite an extraordinary feat. The use of music emphasises an eerie, desolate lonely life in the city - yet is beautiful and magical at the same time - this mirrors the contradictions in Jane Fonda's Brie Daniels character. This film never grows tiresome - trust me - watch it again and again.
on 14 June 2015
Very close to brilliant with the eye-catching performance (the crying scene is a coup de theatre) from Jane Fonda who looks strangely like Matt Damon I thought from some angles. Sutherland is supposed to be unflappable and cold (he's not doing cool) but with homey dignity intact, yet he doesn't have that much to do and although his character might have hidden dangers (like all of us says the weirdo killer), it doesn't seem that he has. The scenes in post-hippie New York dives have not aged well, but the tension is superbly handled. It's possibly a bit soft-centred in the end and despite its reputation as a game-changing 'feminist'-leaning psychologically sophisticated drama doesn't quite have the depth to convince us that it is fully developed in that department. The great thing about it is its restrained pacing and refusal (apart from the last ten minutes perhaps) to conform to the usual genre plot-lines, but the deserted-factory finale has been done to death in more cliched ways in tv cop shows ever since.
Released in 1971, this is the first of Pakula’s so-called ‘Paranoia trilogy’, which was followed by, in 1974 and 1976 respectively, ‘The Parallax View’ and ‘All the President’s Men’.
Not so overtly political as the two later films, although it introduces themes that will echo throughout the 1970s, it is in some senses more akin to Copolla’s ‘Conversation’, which brings to the fore the insidious uses of which emergent technology was capable in order to spy on the unsuspecting. Fonda’s high class call girl, Bree Daniels, is receiving rather unsettling phone calls that, in all probability, would have gone uninvestigated had they not somehow been linked to a parallel investigation into the disappearance of a respected upstate businessman, Tom Gruneman, the whereabouts of whom the FBI are no closer to establishing months in. Tom’s friend and business colleague, Peter Cable (Charles Cioffi), calls in John Klute (Donald Sutherland), an old buddy of Tom’s to move the search forward. Thus we are introduced to the eponymous detective; basically, a private eye, with no previous missing persons experience.
Although Sutherland plays the film’s title character this is very firmly Fonda’s movie: Sutherland, as the softly spoken, understated hick, is the movie’s decent apple pie Norman Rockwell moral centre. Against him, and his search for his missing friend, are pitted all the materialistic, hedonistic evils of the big city. He begins the search with the only credible lead the FBI have been able to establish; Bree Daniels. Initially reluctant to become involved she finds herself inexplicably drawn to Sutherland; inexplicably because her life is all about establishing control over men; the ‘Johns’ she so easily manipulates.
Pakula draws a brilliant, aching, painful performance from Fonda; perhaps her career best and the scenes between her and Sutherland as she gradually begins to relinquish the control upon which she has relied for so long are beautiful to behold. But all the performances are top notch, including a superbly sleazy cameo from Roy Scheider as Fonda’s erstwhile pimp and Charles Cioffi, as the Machiavellian puppet master, Peter Cable, who thinks it is he who is pulling all the right strings.
But underpinning it all is a superb score by Michael Small, who might reasonably be credited with starting the ‘paranoia film score genre’, echoed in films like the near contemporaneous ‘Dirty Harry’, all on his own, with this eerily dreamlike but decidedly unsettling creation that perfectly elicits within the viewer ‘the sense of being stared at’ and which would be developed in his later score for The Parallax View.
Almost a perfect film.
on 30 August 2014
Downright weird that Klute has never received a standard region 2 dvd release. After all Fonda did get an Oscar and deservedly so. One of several films by Alan J Pakula dealing with the paranoia the American government caused at the time. Although many critics claim All The Presidents Men is his finest work I'd have to disagree. That film is very well made in every way but ultimately it's something of a bore. Klute and The Parallax View are more to my taste. Definitely a 70's classic.