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France/Italy 1976
Directed by
Joseph Losey
123 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Mr Klein

Mr Klein is an intriguing, if not entirely successful, film. The fact that it was the winner of the Cèsar for Best Picture and Best the year of its release reflects that intrigue as much as it does its zeitgeist-symptomatic style.

Scripted by Franco Solinas (who wrote The Battle Of Algiers, 1965) with Fernando Morandi and with uncredited contributions by Costa-Gavras the film is set in Vichy France and tells the story of Parisian antique and art dealer, Mr. Robert Klein (Alain Delon), who makes a comfortable living from buying artworks from Jews fleeing the Nazis. He becomes annoyed when he is mistaken for another Robert Klein, a rather mysterious Jew.  Keen to not to have his cosy lifestyle disturbed he attempts to clear his name with the authorities. The more he protests, however, the more they become convinced he is lying and the situation gradually spirals out of control.

Although having the thriller format, Mr Klein is more in the Nabokovian spirit of ironic fatalism than anything driven by adrenaline-injecting plot twists. Losey, who directed The Servant (1963), a dark tale of stolen identity, handles his material with confidence (the American-born Losey moved to England when blacklisted by the HUAC in the 1950s), giving proceedings a surreal, Kafkaesque feel which is at the same time quite typically '70s in its foregrounding of the growing destabilization of the central character as he travels inexorably to his doom.In the lead Alain Delon is typically cool and compelling.

Mr Klein perhaps is too wanting in dramatic texture with Losey presumably intentionally, understating his points, but it is a film that deserves to be better known.




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