Friday, October 17, 2008

William Klein: Delirious montages

William Klein has only made a handful of films, but he carved out an amazingly fresh and vigorously strange and funny cinematic style, especially in his trio of fiction films. I’ve been showing scenes from Klein’s films on the program since mail-order copies became available from France, and so I was utterly delighted when Eclipse/the Criterion Collection released all three in the box-set The Delirious Fictions of William Klein. I’ve noticed that two of the most visually arresting scenes from two of the films were up on Youtube already, but in abbreviated versions, and so I thought it would be best to see the scenes in their full mondo-montage context.

First the sequence in Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? (1966) in which our heroine (Dorothy McGowan) becomes part of an odd spoof of beauty-product pitches, and then flies away with her Prince Charming (Sami Frey) in a wonderful bit of photo-animation. The latter part of the sequence is striking, as it prefigures Terry Gilliam’s work at the end of the decade but was influenced by the work of Harry Smith (thanks to Stephen Kroninger for the citation).

Then the wonderful skewering of American patriotism from Klein’s Mr. Freedom (1969). John Abbey (where did he go?) does a dynamite job delivering Klein’s mock recitation of American values, followed by a bright and bouncy montage (with the occasional dark, menacing overtone) elaborating the joys of the U.S. of A.

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