DVD of the Week – ‘The Delirious Fictions Of William Klein’ – May 20, 2008

I blame SIFF. I only had time to see one film in the three-disc set The Delirious Fictions of William Klein from Eclipse, but there is not other set I’m so inspired to complete. Unfortunately, I’m reviewing films for the Seattle International Film Festival by day, packing to move at the end of the month (in the middle of SIFF) by night, watching DVDs in between and writing when I can find the time, so I only had time to see the first film in the collection. Is Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? great? Perhaps not, but it is charming, funny, clever, playful satirical, and surprising.

Dorothy MacGowan, a real-life model who (apparently) only made this one film, is the wide-eyed American supermodel in Paris, a young women both guileless and worldly, at ease with her fame yet modest in her life, just taking everything as it comes while the rest of the world dresses her up in their own preconceptions and fantasies. Klein, a fashion photographer turned filmmaker, directs his French-language production in a style very obviously influenced by the French New Wave and Polly, who embodies the mod fashion of the mid-sixties with her stick figure, heavy eye-liner and wigs, recalls Jean Seberg in Breathless and Corinne Marchand in Cleo From 5 to 7, yet feels far more independent than either of them. She’s also far less defined, a blank slate of contentment skipping through a world and not caring what labels others put on her. His satire lacks the savagery or savvy or Godard but he does have fun playing with the image culture of his time, a culture he helped shape through his own work with “Vogue.”

Klein’s French-language fiction debut is one of three features in this box set from Eclipse. The budget-minded collection also features Mr. Freedom (1969), a garish lampoon of American foreign policy in the Vietnam era starring John Abbey as an arrogant patriot, and The Model Couple (1977), a social satire with Andre Dussolier and Anemone as a “normal” couple under 24-hour video surveillance for TV consumption.

The review is here on MSN.

 

Here’s a digest of the other DVD releases featured on my MSN column:

Movies: George Romero’s Diary of the Dead (not a sequel but a rebooting of the zombie genre for the YouTube and DIY video filmmaking generation), Vanaja and the documentary Beyond Hatred:

In 2002, a trio of skinheads went to a park in Rheims with the intention of beating up an Arab. Failing that, they picked the first gay man they could identify and beat his face beyond recognition in a relentless, sadistic attack. Olivier Meyrou’s documentary discards conventional exposition and analysis to shift the focus to the grief of the family as the trial approaches.

TV: Square Pegs: The Complete Series (Sarah Jessica Parker’s first TV series), The Tom Selleck Western Collection (three TV-movies) and Burke’s Law: Season One – Volume 1:

Gene Barry is millionaire lawman Amos Burke, the chief of detectives for Los Angeles and a cop with style and savoir faire. He likes to arrive at crime scenes in a chauffeur-driven limousine (“What do they pay policemen around here?” asks one startled witness) and make personal visits the more attractive witnesses and suspects, while his reliable team of detectives – smart young cop Tim Tilson (Gary Conway, who resembles Jack Lord) and unflappable veteran investigator Les Hart (Regis Toomey) – does his legwork. And an episode doesn’t go by without Burke offering an aphorism under the title “Burke’s law.”

Special Releases: Night Of The Living Dead: 40th Anniversary Edition (featuring a new feature-length retrospective documentary), Forgotten Noir Collector’s Set: Series Three (not really noir but B crime movies) and James Stewart: The Western Collection, a box set of six previously released films:

The six westerns in this box set are anchored by three tough-minded classics directed by Anthony Mann. Winchester ’73 (1950), the first of their seven collaborations, is practically a film noir on the frontier. Behind the clever plot (Stewart’s one-of-a-kind rifle is stolen and he tracks it across the west as it changes hands) is a much darker tale of hatred and revenge with a Cain and Abel twist. Mann turns the wide open American west into a jagged landscape of danger and death and he transforms All-American icon Jimmy Stewart into a ruthless man of the west. It changed the entire arc of Stewart’s career. The star plays it in a more mellow mood in Bend of the River (1952), where he plays a former outlaw turned trail guide, trying to make a new life for himself with a wagon train to Oregon, until his past catches up with him. Arthur Kennedy is a pal-turned nemesis and young Rock Hudson is impossibly fresh-faced as a good-natured San Francisco gambler. “The Far Country” (1954) is Gold Rush-era Alaska where cold-hearted cattleman James Stewart and his garrulous sidekick Walter Brennan drive a herd of cattle. The location shots among the Alaskan peaks are spectacular (the studio sets much less so) and Mann brings an edge to the drama with explosions of cold-blooded violence, capped by a brilliant climactic shoot-out that plays out on a split level plain.

The rest of the films in the set are Destry Rides Again (1939), Night Passage (1957) and The Rare Breed (1966) .

 

The weekly column goes live every Tuesday on MSN Entertainment.

Author: seanax

I write the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website (www.streamondemandathome.com). I’m a contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies Online, Keyframe, Independent Lens, and Cinephiled, and the editor of Parallax View (www.parallax-view.org).. I’ve written for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Weekly, GreenCine.com, Senses of Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, and Psychotronic Video, among other publications, and I am a contributing editor to Parallax View.

I currently live and work in Seattle, Washington, with my two cats, Hammet and Chandler.

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