Joseph Losey's Mr. Klein, from 1976, is a unique World War II film that focuses on those involved in a different aspect of the war.
Set in the Paris of 1942, Robert Klein (Alain Delon) is an art dealer who doesn't really have a problem with the way that the Germans, currently occupying France, are running things. He is not affected by their politics, and chooses not to care. In fact, things are going well for Klein. He seems to have it all – a slick apartment, a beautiful mistress, and a well established art dealing business.
When the French government decides to turn on its Jewish population, many of the Jewish citizens quickly find themselves strapped for cash and needing to get out of the country. This puts Klein in the unique situation of being able to purchase their artwork at cut throat prices, knowing that they'll take whatever he offers them, no matter how much he may be ripping them off.
Klein starts to sing a slightly different tune though when he is mistaken for a totally different Robert Klein who also lives in Paris and just happens to be of Jewish origin. This other Mr. Klein also happens to have a few skeletons in his closet that attract the attention of the local authorities who end up following some carefully placed evidence to the first Mr. Klein's doorstep.
Mr. Klein is a well-paced thriller that not only keeps you guessing but makes you think as well. Delon's Klein is a bastard right off the bat and while it isn't easy to like him, it is easy to relate to him. We've all been on one side or another of a bum business deal, we've all been taken advantage of, and we all know how much it sucks when it happens. Delon's character is the one who took advantage of us, and Losey makes it easy to dislike him. But at the same time, he's not the Mr. Klein that the authorities come looking for, and we know this. Does he deserve what happens to him because of this legitimate case of mistaken identity? Is it karma, in a sense?
Delon is fantastic in the lead. Those who are familiar with his performances only from police and crime movies like Le Samourai and Tony Arzenta are in for a treat as we see a slightly more complicated side of his ability. His character is stuck in a moral dilemma and Delon makes us believe it.
Losey directs the film with a subtlety that builds the tension quite effectively, even if we don't realize it until it's all said and done with. The pacing is quite deliberate, allowing the story to unfold one small piece at a time and while it's hardly a slow film, it is one that pays out bigger if you pay attention to it as the little details really do form a bigger picture. When Klein's friends find out about his dilemma, their cold reaction to his plight seems to say a lot about his own indifference to what he himself was doing to the Jews before the government decided that he was one of them. An interesting paradox, and this movie is full of them.
Mr. Klein is given a rock solid 1.66.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks very, very nice. There is some mild print damage but it's nothing worth getting worked up about and hardly distracting at all. The color photography looks exceptionally good and plays such an important role in setting the mood of the film that it's nice to see it so well represented on this transfer. Black levels are solid, compression artifacts are minimal, and edge enhancement is just slightly present in a couple of scenes.
Home Vision presents Mr. Klein in its original sound mix, which is a French mono track with removable English subtitles. As far as mono tracks go, this one is tops with clear and clean dialogue, well balanced levels, and hardly a hint of distortion or hiss to be found anywhere in the mix.
The DVD includes a trailer (dubbed in English), as well as filmographies for Joseph Losey and Alain Delon in text format on the DVD. The best of the supplements though comes in the form of Edwin Jahiel's liner notes (a hard copy insert found inside the keepcase) that puts the film into context with Losey's other works while simultaneously giving a brief background on Losey and Delon.
Mr. Klein is a cynical but fascinating film with solid and artistic direction from Losey and a great performance from the always reliable Alain Delon. Home Vision brings the film to DVD in style and despite the lack of extras, still comes highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.