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For me, it's easy to forget the caliber of work that Jane Fonda put in as an actress back in the day, since all she does is play the mother or grandmother in a romantic comedy here and there. But she had done an appearance on Norm MacDonald's talk show on Netflix a few months back that is oddly fascinating and gently pointed me in the direction of some of that older work, which brings me and us to Klute.
Written by Andy and Dave Lewis and directed by Alan Pakula (All the President's Men), the eponymous John Klute is a small town Pennsylvania police detective played by Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games). Klute is investigating the disappearance of a prominent businessman in town, and the only lead he has is a prostitute from New York City named Bree Daniels (Fonda) who spent time with him before his disappearance. While we watch Klute's investigation, there is another aspect to the film that we experience, and that is Bree's life in the city and the level of danger she experiences.
There is a lot going on within Klute if you haven't seen it, largely the noir and thriller/investigative aspects on the surface. But underneath that, the character explorations of Klute but more importantly Bree are the most compelling portion of the film. Bree seems to have a position of strength in her work, what she makes the most money for. But the thing is that position is fleeting, because she wants to get away from it, and because of that she doesn't have as much control or impact as she thinks. She gets turned down for a modeling/acting audition before speaking a word. She doesn't want to be a prostitute, but it may be the only thing she can do in a strange, sad way.
Fonda communicates this brilliantly, evoking her father in some of her expressions but in fleeting moments because her words and actions she makes her own in a mix of hurt, strength and even panic. She plays off of Sutherland very well, and as Klute he experiences his own transformation to a degree. Going from yokel to easily skeptical quickly was something he handled well.
The movie is Fonda's and she handles the amount of work she has to do for the film (she was 33 during principal photography) really well. Klute may have a lot of different elements in it but above most is that it's a drama about authentic people doing some distasteful things at times, and sadly they have no other way around them, despite their best efforts otherwise.
It may get lost in the sands of time, but Klute is one of the few movies that holds up well AND hasn't been redone and thus lost any of the essence that made it so good. With excellent performances and a compelling story is proves to be fun to re-examine if you've seen it. Having seen it for the first time, I consider myself lucky.
Criterion gives Klute a 4K transfer from the original negative, and the results look excellent. Sequins on Fonda's dress in the initial meeting with Klute stand out like new, and the scene where the models are being evaluated looks like it could have been shot a few years ago. Colors are natural and not over saturated, and film grain is present during much of the viewing experience. Black levels tend to fluctuate a little bit but otherwise Klute looks great on Blu-ray for a nearly half-century old release.
PCM one-channel mono for the film is the only choice. Frankly, it would have been nice to Michael Small's music in stereo or lossless, but it sounds clear as can be with no dropouts ot hissing to speak of.
There aren't many extras in terms of numbers but the substance is pretty good; "Pakula" (18:04) are a series of interviews about the director for an upcoming documentary on him; film critics are included but Steven Soderbergh makes an appearance as well, as the material gets into why Pakula is revered decades after his death, and looks at some of the films in the oeuvre, with this one getting obvious attention. It does make one anticipate what the final product will be. "Jane Fonda and Illeana Douglas" (36:05) is a self-explanatory interview and discussion with Fonda where she talks about her preparation for the role and its particular clashes with her belief system, and some additional context she includes for her work too. As in the MacDonald show he paints a pretty good picture and it's worth checking out.
Next is "The Look of Klute" (25:16), where an appreciation of the hair and wardrobe in the film is talked about, along with its larger place in the era. Two TV interviews follow, the first is a 1978 Pakula appearance on Dick Cavett's show (27:14) where he talks about the films he'd done to that point, along with his thoughts on filmmaking and Hollywood in general. The second interview is Fonda with someone named Midge McKenzie (38:05), which is a little more autobiographical, or as much as it can be from 1973. "Klute in New York" (8:18) is an on-location featurette on the film that includes a wardrobe choice from Sutherland that must be seen to be believed.
In between substantive extras and a good transfer, Criterion does right by Klute as you'd expect it to, letting the performances and specifically Fonda's work and relfections on the role the attention it deserves. Technically it's excellent and the extras aren't many but are longer form and are worth the viewing. Seek this one out if you haven't gotten the chance and check it out if you have for the Criterion treatment.