Thursday, 29 April 2010

Tais-Toi! (2003)

I must confess that I knew nothing at all about this French film before choosing it as a 'makeweight' on a foreign-language DVD offer, but it is undoubtedly one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. I was initially attracted by the pairing of lead actors Gerard Depardieu and Jean Reno, but I should have realised that I was in for a treat when I saw that it was made by writer-director Francis Veber. He has been responsible for a string of hilarious farces including "The Dinner Game" (1998), currently being remade Stateside with a rather ruder title, and "The Closet" (2001). The film is also known as "Ruby and Quentin" and by the translation of its title, "Shut Up!".

Veber's scenarios often feature a mismatched pair of protagonists and such is the case here. A surprisingly thin-line Depardieu plays a simple-minded thief with the look of a gurning idiot. While being chased by the police after holding up an exchange bureau which offers him yen rather than euros, he takes refuge in a cinema where "Ice Age" is playing; there he sits like a lumbering, laughing lummox surrounded by little kids until the cops drag him away. Reno in contrast plays his usual hard man, a taciturn killer and thief who has ripped off Vogel, a gangster who has just murdered his wife (who was Reno's lover). In prison where Depardieu has driven all of his previous cellmates gaga with his incessant nattering, they end up sharing a cell. Taking Reno's silence for genuine interest, Depardieu believes that he has finally made a friend and dreams of opening a bar with him in his hometown of Montargis. Also, having once worked at a stables, Depardieu just loves Reno's horse-like, plaintive eyes! Reno, meanwhile, thinks that Depardieu must be an undercover cop, planted on him to drive him crazy and to get him to reveal the whereabouts of the 20 million he has stolen.

When Reno plans to escape to kill Vogel, he cuts his wrists to get to the prison hospital and then to the prison psychiatric unit, but dimbo Depardieu follows suit to stay near his friend. With Reno's escape plan in progress via a bent prison nursing assistant, Depardieu intervenes shoving them both into the cage of a crane being manoevred on the other side of the prison wall by a very drunk acquaintance. From thereon we are treated to a comic chase with the prison authorities and the police in hot pursuit, involving a selection of stolen cars (two of them belonging to Vogel), several police cars, and any other vehicle Depardieu can attempt to wire. Also since they were wearing prison pyjamas and bathrobes when they escaped, they have to try to find new clothes and money. Their first attempt at a novelty store yields only 15 euros, a whoopee cushion, and a cow-mooing device which enchants the simple Depardieu. At the house of a wee retired jockey whose clothing is too small for them, they find their first new wardrobe, in drag, thanks to the jockey's outsized, towering wife.

All the while Reno is attempting to rid himself of the leech-like Depardieu who good naturedly hangs on, looking after the former's various injuries including a dislocated shoulder and a gunshot wound, incurred during the course of their adventures. How Vogel eventually gets his comeuppance and how Reno reluctantly but inevitably warms to Depardieu's man-child is all part of the fun. The supporting cast is this side of superior, especially Andre Dussolier as the prison psychiatrist trying to get through to Reno and failing to restrain the unrestrainable Depardieu. This film is very warmly and very highly recommended for all that ails you!

Monday, 26 April 2010

Bye Bye Birdie (1963)

This film is still one of the more memorable Hollywood musicals, despite its not originating at MGM. Based on the 1960 Broadway show, Dick Van Dyke repeats his award-winning role of a would-be composer, but the movie is not remembered for his star turn. The two factors that elevate this film into high esteem are the still catchy score and the breakout performance by 22-year old Ann-Margaret in her third movie role.

Building on the hoo-hah over Elvis' induction into the army, she plays 16-year old Kim, a smalltown high school student, who has been selected to give pop idol Conrad Birdie a farewell kiss on behalf of all his screaming fans before he becomes the property of Uncle Sam. The movie nicely captures the basic innocence of cornbelt America and the subversive influence of rock 'n roll. I believe the storyline has been somewhat sanitized between Broadway and Hollywood, which weakens the plot to some extent and the overall casting is something of a mixed bag. Van Dyke at the height of his TV popularity is OK as chemist-turned songwriter Albert, but he is lumbered by his interfering busybody mother played by Maureen Stapleton (a far from sympathetic turn) who objects to his long-standing relationship with his sweetheart Rosie, Janet Leigh in an offputting black wig. I believe her objections in the original play were based on ethnicity with the character being Puerto Rican, not that it is mentioned here, which may account for disguising Leigh's normally blonde good looks. She still, let it be said, is gorgeous and shows good comic timing; I don't know whether her singing was dubbed, but she makes a good fist of it, even if her dancing leaves something to be desired.

Apart from Stapleton's Jewish mama (if that's what it is) and Paul Lynde as Kim's equally annoying father, the weakest casting is Bobby Rydell, a teenaged popstar of the day, as Kim's jealous boyfriend, and surprisingly one Jesse Pearson as the eponymous Birdie, whose singing has virtually none of Elvis' charisma and whose character is something of a blank. However, the sexy and dynamic Ann-Margaret is a force to be savoured and as she gyrates in her brightly-coloured togs, one is blown away by her appeal and talent. It's amusing to remember that her very next movie role was opposite Elvis himself in "Viva Las Vegas".

Friday, 23 April 2010

Pinky (1949)

Just as Warner Brothers in the 1930s claimed that their crime movies were "ripped from the headlines", so Twentieth Century Fox producer Darryl F. Zanuck chose to specialise in controversial movies after World War Two, addressing issues of the day. This film concerns itself with racial prejudice and miscegenation and follows hard on the heels of "Gentleman's Agreement" and "Boomerang" which dealt with anti-Semitism and "The Snake Pit" which dealt with mental illness.

Jeanne Crain who was of course a white actress plays a light-skinned negro who has been sent north to be educated and trained as a nurse by her hardworking washerwoman granny, Ethel Waters. There she took the opportunity to pass for white and became romantically involved with doctor William Lundigan. Unable to reveal the truth to him, she runs away back to her small southern town where almost everyone knows that Patricia, commonly called Pinky, is really 'one of those', despite her looking no different than the people who treat her like trash. She is soon discouraged by this way of life, so different from her acceptance in Boston, that she packs to return to the lie that she has been living. However, Waters insists that she stay to nurse the local haughty but impoverished lady in the nearby big house, played by Ethel Barrymore with full cantankerous force. When Barrymore dies and leaves the house, contents, and land to Pinky, all hell breaks loose as the greedy relatives and prejudiced townsfolk can not contemplate her having been so rewarded unless she kept Barrymore drugged and incompetent. A hearing follows to challenge the will.

Meanwhile Lundigan has traced his sweetheart and learns the truth about her background. He insists that she leave with him so that they can build a life together, but it is implicit that this would entail moving somewhere where no one would know about her and for her to carry on denying her heritage. (The question of children is not raised by him, although Barrymore who has encouraged her to be her own person has mentioned this in passing).

All three actresses were nominated for Academy Awards for this film, although none of them won. Black actresses Lena Horne and Dorothy Dandridge campaigned hard to be considered for the lead role, but the story wouldn't have worked as well if Pinky didn't really look the part. In addition, general movie conventions and prejudices of the time being what they were, the Studio would never have gotten away with a black actress kissing a white man and that part of the story would have had to have been written away. In all fairness, Crain does a fine job in the role and one is quite prepared to believe that she really is of Negro descent.

As an interesting sidebar, John Ford -- that giant among directors -- was originally supposed to direct this film, but apparently fell out with Waters during the initial stages. The role was taken over by ex-Broadway maven Elia Kazan who had previously tackled some of Fox's message movies. However one can't help but wonder how different the film might have been had Ford remained at the helm and whether it would be better remembered today.

Monday, 19 April 2010

A Motley Selection

More and more nowadays I find that I don't really want to discuss any of my recent viewings in any depth and I resort to making brief comments about a selection of films. So it will be today, until I get as bored doing this as I did watching some of the following selection:

Murders in the Zoo (1933): A reasonably well-done, but not so golden oldie, where our hero Randolph Scott deals with a missing mamba and discovers that big baddie Lionel Atwell has been poisoning his rivals with a make-believe mamba mouth. Or something like that. The stock animal shots were fine.

Cadillac Records (2008): I didn't dislike this movie as much as I thought I would, largely because of the glorious music of the sixties. Adrien Brody (much better than the last time I saw him in the Dario Argento fiasco) plays the founder of Chess Records in Chicago ready to exploit the new fashionable black sounds and a selection of black actors take on the roles of the various stars of that period. I particularly liked Mos Def as Chuck Berry, while producer Beyonce Knowles gifted herself a fine showcase for her voice as Etta James.

Mad Money (2008): This rather muddled caper movie which had more plot holes than a leaky sieve featured Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah, and Mrs. Cruise as the employees of a facility for shredding worn-out banknotes and their wheeze of smuggling vast quantities of cash out every day in their underwear. Keaton's and Katie Holmes' overacting were annoyingly frenetic and most of the rest of the cast decided to follow suit.

The Possession of Joel Delaney (1972): It's been a while since I last saw this paeon to 70s' fashion where socialite Shirley MacLaine deals with her brother Perry King's possession by the soul of a Puerto Rican serial killer with a penchant for beheading his victims. Watchable, but rather nasty, as she and her children are brutalised by the increasingly violent King and an ending of no surprise whatsoever for the savvy horror fan.

The Tunnel (1935): An obscure and fairly well-conceived British flick where Leslie Banks oversees the building of a tunnel to link London and New York to further harmonious relations amongst the English-speaking nations!!!

Ca Brule (2006): Also known as "It Burns", this French flick was hard to like and rather dreary as a rebellious teenager develops a crush on a local married fireman and sets the countryside ablaze to catch his attention, managing to kill them both in the process. There...I've given the ending away and you don't have to bother watching it.

The Late George Apley (1947): This adaptation of the Marquand novel provides an excellent showcase for Ronald Colman as the Boston blueblood and snob who learns to deal with the world outside of Beacon Street as his children fall in love with unacceptable 'foreigners' (like from a neighbouring city or educated at Yale rather than Harvard). Lightweight, but a fairly ironic and entertaining period piece.

Knowing (2009): Yet another forgettable outing for worried action hero Nicolas Cage as he becomes obsessed with deciphering a string of numbers outlining past and forthcoming disasters. I can just about remember when I used to like this actor in some of his early and far kookier roles.

Tampopo (1985): I'd forgotten just how pleasant this Japanese hymn to the joys of eating is, as a wideboy helps a widowed noodle bar owner turn her restaurant into the paragon of all noodle bars, taking time out for a number of unrelated vignettes on how food is not just necessary for nourishment but also for erotic delights. A very tasty treat indeed.

Van Wilder: Freshman Year (2009): The less said about this jejune straight-t0-disc spinoff the better.

Despearately Seeking Susan (1985): I haven't seen this one for quite a while, but it holds up reasonably well, largely due to likeable actress Rosanna Arquette, the eldest of the acting siblings. She becomes fascinated with the elusive "Susan" (as played by Madonna) whose exploits she follows in the small ads. After acquiring Susan's jacket and losing her memory, people take her to be Susan, especially Aiden Quinn as her reluctant saviour and Will Patton as a gangster out to retrieve some stolen earrings. Meanwhile her philandering and self-obsessed bathtub-salesman husband shows his true and rather miserable colours. At the time people thought that Madonna stole the film from the more talented Arquette, but in retrospect one realises that Madonna may have been an iconic-looking figure in the period when the movie was made but she is definitely no actress.

I think that's about all I can stand to write about for today, but I guess it was all a lot better on balance than I suggested at the start.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Miranda (1948)

When people think about mermaid movies (assuming they do), the first film that is likely to come to mind is 1984's "Splash". However oddly enough two similar films appeared in the U.K. and the U.S. in 1948, both with similar stories of a man hooking the fabulous creature while fishing. I wouldn't like to say which came first, this film or the equally charming "Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid", since the latter is based on a previously published novel and the British entry was a popular stage play. Not that it matters in the least.

On many levels this is a very lightweight tale and an equally lightweight film, but it is not without its memorable moments. The sea creature is played in a sexily flirty style by husky-voiced Glynis Johns, while Mr. Peabody's remained silent. The able if not overly starry supporting cast includes doctor Griffith Jones as the enterprising fisherman, Googie Withers (an actress who is something of an acquired taste) as his shrewd wife, and the recently-deceased John McCallum and David Tomlinson as respectively an artist and a chauffeur, who are captivated by Johns' siren. As a piece of movie history, I must mention that of course Johns and Tomlinson played together again as Mr. and Mrs. Banks in "Mary Poppins" (1964). The gem among the support however is Margaret Rutherford, an actress who brightens every single film in which she appears. She is hired as a nurse for the 'invalid' Johns whom Jones has brought up to his London flat (where she overnights in the bathtub and snaffles the fish from the goldfish bowl). Rutherford's look of joy when she first sees Johns is priceless (she says she always did believe in mermaids) and there is also an oppoturnity for her to perform a little dance in her own inimitable gracefully clunky style.

SPOILERS follow: Having just about temporarily estranged all of the male cast from their female counterparts, Johns eventually dives into the Thames to begin her long swim to the sunnier climes of Majorca. The last slot shows her cuddling an angelic-looking blonde mer-child and the viewer can take his pick as to which of the three male characters was the father. He can also wonder how on earth one inpregnates a mermaid!

This sweet fantasy has been directed with a light touch by director Ken Annakin. Among the amusing scenes are ones where Johns hungrily licks her lips at the seals' feeding time at the zoo (eventually managing to catch and swallow a fish herself) and her taking advantage of the opportunity to show her mermaid singing skills at Covent Garden. It is the only film I know which boasts a front credit 'Tail by Dunlop' and when the movie finishes, of course it does not say 'The End' but more amusingly 'Fin'.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Love and Death on Long Island (1997)

I first caught this film at a festival showing in the year of its release and was sufficiently taken with it to revisit it from time to time. Mind you it is a small and probably slightly obscure outing from writer-director Richard Kwietniowski, who has done little of note subsequently, but it is lifted to greatness by a remarkable performance from actor John Hurt.

Hurt plays a dinosaur of a writer in London called Giles De'Ath, a widower and old fogey, totally removed from the attractions of the modern age. When asked by a rare interviewer whether he uses a word processor, he retorts 'I write; I do not process words'. One afternoon he accidentally locks himself out of his flat; to bide the time until his housekeeper's return,he goes into a movie theatre to watch the E.M. Forster adaptation that he noted on the poster outside. However, by confusing the number of the cinema he wants with the number of tickets he requires, he ends up watching a grade-Z feature called "Hotpants College 2" -- a "Porky's"-type spoof. He is about to leave in disgust when he notices one of the actors, a Ronnie Bostock, played by Jason Priestley. He is smitten and begins to obsess about young Bostock, reading the fan magazines, watching his back catalogue of equally dire movies, and starting a scrapbook of "Bostockiana".

This obsession brings him up against the modern world which he has eschewed. For example, in order to watch the videos he has rented, he buys a state-of-the-art video recorder without knowing that one needs a television set to see the picture. Unable to work at his craft, De'Ath accepts his agent's suggestion that he should take a break, and hotfoots it to the far end of Long Island where he has learned Bostock has a home. While he knows that he is a fish out of water and that he is behaving ever so foolishly, the writer can not help himself, eventually managing to insinuate himself into the household by charming Bostock's girlfriend with his erudition and wit, all the while pretending that his knowledge of the actor stems from the teenaged crush of a mythical niece.

The overall resemblance of this scenario to "Death in Venice" can not be ignored, even to the name of the character, but Hurt is not content to observe his idol from the distance as did Dirk Bogarde. What he wants more than anything is to become a mentor or more to the staunchly heterosexual actor. Priestley, who has never been known for the depth of his acting, does fine as the uncomprehending love object who just might be interested in taking on more serious roles. However the appeal of the film is down to Hurt's immaculate take on his character, giving the audience an acting masterclass. He is nearly the whole show. There is a pleasant small role for the lovely Maury Chaykin as the proprietor of the local greasy spoon called 'Chez d'Irv', but this only adds a little local colour to De'Ath's adventure.

Oddly enough the film was not actually shot on Long Island but in Nova Scotia, whose authorities contributed to the financing and there are a number of factual errors in attempting to stand-in for the Hamptons. For example the name on the local taxi that De'Ath employs (of course he does not drive himself) is that of a town on the North Shore of the island many miles away from the area. However this is of course a minor quibble, only allowable to a fussbudget like myself who was actually raised on the Island.

The ending is left uncertain as De'Ath retreats to the airport for his return flight, probably having been forever spurned by his new amour. However he is not likely to perish as did the hero in Mann's story; rather, he is now better prepared to face the future with a greater awareness of his own needs. Early on in the film the writer gave a lecture on 'The Death of the Future'; by the end of the movie, it is a more adaptable De'Ath facing what might come.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Lady Killer (1933)

Not to be confused with the classic Ealing "Ladykillers" with Alec Guinness or the dire recent mis-step from the Coen Brothers, this pre-code James Cagney vehicle is something of a mixed bag, although also something of a hoot. In those days his studio was churning out half a dozen pictures a year for their star, and while many of them have faded into an amorphous mass in one's memory, others have stayed fresh, largely thanks to Cagney's energy and charisma.

In this one he starts off as one of an army of cinema ushers, but is too cheeky and too ready for a game of craps to hold that job. He then falls in with a gang of con men and robbers, led by slimy Douglass Dumbrille and his moll, Mae Clarke. When things get too hot with the police, the gang disperses and Cagney and Clarke head for sunny Los Angeles to arrive in torrential rain. (As a throwback to their memorable scene in 1931's "Public Enemy", she cracks that California is known for grapefruit!) He's picked up by the authorities for questioning and she absconds with his dough and dirty Dumbrille. However when Cagney is on the skids, he is talent-spotted by the movie studios as an interesting new face and is promised three bucks a day and a boxed lunch.

He starts off as an extra and is a particular treat in full-feathered gear as a Sioux chief spouting Yiddish. He soon becomes a full-fledged moustachioed leading man (thanks to his volume of fan mail -- which he writes himself) and becomes involved with leading lady Margaret Lindsay. The behind-the-scenes glimpse of movie-making is amusing; "Light the Moon" commands one autocratic director as Cagney becomes a garlic-chewing Italian lover. When Lindsay's birthday approaches she jokes that she would like a crate of monkeys, a tyrolean yodeller, and an elephant -- all of which Cagney provides at her snooty party unleashing havoc. However the gang of baddies reappears and want Cagney to furnish the kind of information that will squash his career and his romance. Naturally it all sorts itself out in a blaze of firing guns.

The New York Evening Post reviewed the film as being a kind of resume of everything Cagney had done to date -- mixing the gangster genre with broad comedy. Unfortunately this is inaccurate as it does not include any of Cagney's laid back soft-shoe dancing with was so very charming. To this day I can guarantee to cheer myself up by watching his wonderful turn in "Yankee Doodle Dandy".

The film was directed by Roy del Ruth who started as a Mack Sennett writer and who cranked out so many popular entertainments from the silent days. As a pre-code flick, the film contains a number of touches that would never have been allowed within a year's time. Cagney casually pats Clarke's breast in one scene, tosses a huge pineapple onto her lap (rather than a grapefruit to the mush), and at one stage throws her out of his apartment by dragging her by the hair. It may be hard to imagine, but all of this was done with sprightly grace and good humour. And you don't get much of that to the pound nowadays.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Box Office Poison

If you asked me to choose my favourite film actress of all time, it would be something of a toss-up between Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis. Both had long and distinguished careers and both survived sticky patches when their star had faded. With Davis this came late in the day concurrent with the demise of the studio system, but with Hepburn it was early on. After winning an Oscar for her third role in "Morning Glory" (1933) and her magnificent turn in that year's "Little Women", she fell from favour and her films were deemed 'box office poison' until the success of "Philadelphia Story" (1941). This is despite the fact that some of her most charming and memorable films were actually made during this period: "Alice Adams", "Sylvia Scarlett", and "Bringing up Baby" to name but a few.

It is hard to remember that this esteemed actress who died at the ripe old age of 96, who appeared in pictures through her eighties, and whose fame remains, both through her many memorable roles and her fascinating relationship with Spencer Tracy, was so unpopular in Hollywood in the late 1930s that she decamped to Broadway for several years. Two of her films from that period which I watched recently may explain this strange dichotomy:

The Little Minister (1934): This story was something of a warhorse when the film was made since it is based on a 1891 novel from J.M. Barrie which was originally made into a stage play in 1897. In it Hepburn plays an aristocratic lady who frolics through the Scottish countryside in gypsy garb upsetting the locals. The new minister John Beal who has arrived with his overly mothering mother, Beryl Mercer, is soon enraptured of her charms to the chagrin of the local community. Despite an appealing turn from Hepburn and a lovely Max Steiner score, the twee plot and tender sentimentality would probably also alienate moviegoers today. It is therefore not difficult to understand why Depression-era audiences found it a slight, over-extended, and uninvolving folly. However for a viewer like yours truly, the high production values and the contribution of the supporting cast, including Alan Hale, Donald Crisp, and many more familiar faces, adds to the pleasure of a role where Hepburn is playfully enjoying herself.

A Woman Rebels (1936): This early feminist tract would almost certainly not have gone down terribly well with film audiences when it was released, but it is typical of the many emancipated roles that Hepburn embraced during this period, ones which seem brave and meaningful some seventy-odd years on. In this film, set in the Victorian era, Hepburn and her sister are at the mercy of their widowed martinet father, another fine turn from Donald Crisp. While her younger sister is happy with an arranged marriage, the willful Hepburn embarks on a mad fling with young nobleman Van Heflin (in his debut film role), ending up pregnant and alone when it turns out that he is already married. Through various plot contrivances, her sister dies of grief after her husband's death, and Hepburn ends up supposedly raising 'their' child to avoid society's shame. She also pushes ahead in the workplace, taking jobs not suitable for a lady, and ends up as the fiery author of popular feminist manifestos. As her daughter reaches adulthood, circumstances contrive for past sins to raise their ugly head, but with the support of her faithful suitor, the ever-debonair Herbert Marshall, Hepburn triumphs in adversity. This is not quite as easy a film to warm to as the make-believe-gypsy extravaganza, but Hepburn never gives less than a feisty and believable performance.

Hepburn was not quite the Meryl Streep of her day, but the comparison has some merit. Although not Oscar-nominated quite as often as La Streep, she did actually win four Oscars -- three of which were late in her career (so there is still time for Meryl). Thinking back on her filmography, Hepburn too was tempted by a range of 'funny' accents, but her generally aristocratic bearing and sense of fun always managed to shine through. Box Office poison be damned!

Friday, 2 April 2010

Two from the Many...

I had every intention of writing today about G.W. Pabst's 1926 silent "Secrets of a Soul" which I had booked to see last night. However, ever since buying the tickets I had a little niggle at the back of my mind that I knew the film and had not been overly taken with it. Then yesterday afternoon -- quite by accident -- I discovered that not only had I seen it, but that I had taken a copy off German television less than two years ago! That being the case I could see no good reason for dragging myself halfway across London in the rain just to view it on a not-so-big screen. However, to refresh my vague memory, I did plough through my copy.

Contrary to public perception -- possibly by some film critics who have not actually seen the film -- it is not a gem of German Expressionist cinema, although it does have one rather good dream sequence which gets overly repeated in bits. Made in the era that Freud's 'Intepretation of Dreams' was fashionable, the movie sets itself up as a story of pyschoanalytic glory. Werner Krauss plays a middle-aged chemist who finds himself increasingly alienated from his much younger and rather attractive wife, obsessing about her relationship with her equally young male cousin, and fixated and frightened by knives. He suffers from recurrent nightmares and seeks help from an analyst. The latter systematically explains the various meanings of the dream's elements as they relate to buried memories, but unlike current psychiatric practice the various explanations and solutions are just presented by the therapist, rather than coming from the patient himself. Eventually when all is explained away, our troubled hero can find happiness with his wife and their new child. In fact the film is mainly a rather plodding domestic drama enlivened only by the brief dream imagery. I'm rather glad that I didn't brave the elements after all.

So instead I think I'll say a few words about another previously-seen film, "Mr. Klein" (1976) -- or "Monsieur Klein" to give it its correct title since it was made by director Joseph Losey in French. American-born Losey had a strange career, exiling himself to Britain to escape the McCarthy communist witch-hunts. In the U.K. he made some highly-considered films like "The Servant", "Accident", and "The Go-between". However this one, towards the tail-end of his career, is probably one of his very best, albeit very disturbing. Set in Paris in 1942, Alain Delon plays a Catholic art-dealer who is comfortable with the German occupation, who has no qualms about profiteering from sales by Jews desperate to emigrate, and who sees nothing wrong with attending an anti-Semitic cabaret. When a government-sanctioned Jewish newspaper is delivered to his address, he discovers that there is another Robert Klein at large in Paris, one who is both Jewish and wanted by the police.

Delon, who earlier in his career might have been considered little more than a very pretty face, proves himself as an actor here, as he becomes obsessed with finding the other Klein while attempting to protect his own interests. The more he discovers about the never-seen other man, who everyone says is very much like him, the more he jeopardizes his own wealth and freedom. The film is an interesting riff on the nature of identity and the spiralling circumstances from which our Mr. Klein can not extricate himself. Supported by an able cast, of whom Michael Lonsdale as his self-righteous lawyer is a stand-out, the film is primarily a showcase for Delon's talent. Second-billing goes to Jeanne Moreau in a rather disposable part playing a wealthy, married mistress of the other disreputable Klein. The film finishes as the round-up of Jews and other undesirables is being carried out by the authorities; Delon now finds himself irretrievably locked into the destinies of the very people from whom he has sought to prove his separation. It's not an easy film to watch or to accept, as Delon's character sinks further and further into the morass, a victim of both the cruel period and his own making.