Blu-ray Review: Klute (Criterion Collection)

“It’s easy to manipulate men,” Bree Daniels (Jane Fonda, On Golden Pond) tells her psychiatrist. A high class call girl and an aspiring actress, she feels a sense of pride in satisfying a client–whether it’s a man in the city on business, or a widowed garment industry executive who just wants her to act out a fantasy–Bree remains detached, in control. She doesn’t feel anything for any of these men. Though she doesn’t get much positive feedback when she auditions for acting roles. Bree’s independent, if somewhat chaotic life is upended when investigator John Klute turns up at her door.

Business executive Tom Gruneman has disappeared. Police have found an obscene letter on his office, addressed to her. After months of little progress in the investigation, Peter Cable (Charles Cioffi), a fellow executive at Gruneman’s employer has hired Klute, a small-town policeman, to conduct an outside investigation. Bree is the best lead he has. While Bree doesn’t recognize a picture of Gruneman, she acknowledges that a john beat her up two years earlier. She’s also getting mysterious phone calls and fears a prowler.

Directed by Alan J. Pakula, Klute would later be considered the first film in his “paranoia” trilogy, which also includes The Parallax View (1974) and All the President’s Men (1976). All three films were lenses by Gordon Willis (The Godfather) whose use of shadow and light ratchets up the tension in the story, particularly during the stalking sequences.  Kudos also to the Michael Small score, which is just plain creepy. Part noir, part thriller, Klute takes an unexpected turn, as Bree and John start a romantic relationship amid investigation. In a departure from the dark nature of the film, the pair visit a sidewalk fruit stand. They’re casually walking around, picking up fruit and enjoying themselves. Bree seems so relaxed and happy. Perhaps for the first time ever, she is being treated like a woman worthy of respect.

While Klute isn’t the shocker it was in 1971, the Oscar winning performance of Jane Fonda is still impressive. Bree is a fully realized character. She is beautiful yet ugly, sensitive yet brutal. Bree is a myriad of emotions and Fonda takes us through them all, convincingly. She plays well off co-star Donald Sutherland who’s staid and somewhat cold John Klute finds himself undergoing his own emotional turmoil. It’s seems strange now, but in one of Criterion’s included extras, the actress talks about her fear that she couldn’t be a believable prostitute. So much so, she asked Alan J. Pakula to release her from her contract and hire Faye Dunaway, who she thought could do a much better job. Thankfully, the director said no. She worked at it, and Bree Daniels is considered be among the best in her career.

Criterion’s 4K restoration effort was supervised by camera operator Michael Chapman and it looks fantastic. Presented in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio, this dark and gritty film maintains the visual aesthetic established by cinematographer Gordon Willis. However, individual details on clothing and in the various locations around New York City shine like never before. Colors are nicely rendered, giving reds and blues particular punch. Contrast is terrific throughout and blacks are inky. Whites are bright, without blooming. Depth is appropriately illustrated, offering a nice sense of scale throughout. Happily, Criterion has given this 1970’s classic the kind of first class transfer it deserves.

Criterion has kept the LPCM 1.0 Mono mix, which works well here. The tight sound mix fits with the sense of dread evoked by Michael Small’s score and the ambient sounds of the city. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout–even the killers audio tapes are clear as a bell! Much like the transfer, the audio leaves nothing to complain about, as it’s free of pops, crackles, and other distortions.

English SDH subtitles are included.

The following extras are available:

  • Jane Fonda with Illeana Douglas (HD, 36:05) In this new interview, actress Jane Fonda discusses her work with with Alan J. Pakula and Gordon Willis on the film. She recalls the research she did to prepare for the role of Bree, as well as some of the film’s major themes.
  • Pakula (HD, 18:04) Here, is a new collection of interviews conducted by Matthew Miele for an upcoming documentary on the life and legacy of Alan J. Pakula. Much of what’s included here has to do with Klute and the films production and visual style. Among the interviewees are: Steven Soderberg, Annette Insdorf and Charles Cioffi. Also included is a clip of an archive interview with Pakula.
  • The Look of Klute (HD, 25:16) In this new piece, fashion writer Amy Fine Collins examines the look and style of Klute.
  • Television Interviews:
    • Alan J. Pakula on The Dick Cavett Show (HD, 27:13) From 1978, Pakula discusses his filmmaking style, working in film at the time, as well as some specific observations about
    • Jane Fonda and Midge Mackenzie (HD, 38:05) Conducted in 1973, the actress discusses her activist work at the time and it’s effect on her life and career.
  • Klute in New York (HD, 8:18) A short, vintage documentary made during the shooting of the film.
  • Booklet: A 26-page illustrated booklet featuring an essay on the film by Mark Harris and a reprinted interview with Alan J. Pakula, conducted by Tom Milne for a 1972 issue of Sight & Sound.

Klute (1971)
Klute (1991)

Movie title: Klute

Director(s): Alan J. Pakula

Actor(s): Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, Charles Cioffi, Roy Scheider , Rita Gam , Anthony Holland

Genre: Film Noir, Psychological Thriller, Mystery, Thriller, Crime

  • Movie
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras

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