KLUTE (1971) DIRECTED BY ALAN PAKULA
AND STARRING JANE FONDA AND DONALD SUTHERLAND
I watched two films from the 70’s this weekend. One of them stood the test of time and one of them did not. Three Days of the Condor (1975) with Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway was annoying with its unbelievable premise of a woman being kidnaped by a desperate CIA agent then falling in love/lust with him (excuse me, after he held a gun to your ribs?) and agreeing to assist him in a dangerous caper only to return to her fiance in the end. Ugh. Dunaway’s little-girl pout and unquestioning willingness to put herself in harm’s way for a handsome desperardo resulted in a performance that was unsympathetic at best, and offensive to women at worst. And let’s talk about a young Robert Redford for a minute. His looks and performance presaged the rise of Brad Pitt in that he was distractingly handsome and terribly sincere… One got the impression that he really, really did want to be a good actor. But his perfect hair and good looks filled the screen. I was reminded that I recently watched a young Brad Pitt with a similar fascination although I can’t remember what the movie was… which is precisely my point. At any rate, both Redford and Pitt grew up to be better actors in spite of some of their early wooden performances. Three Days of the Condor seemed slightly silly and “dated.”
On the other hand, Jane Fonda’s performance in Klute was mesmerizing. She played a call girl who gets caught up in a murder investigation while struggling with her sense of identity, self-worth and her need to control her life. Fonda managed to project her character’s fear of intimacy while oozing a powerful sexuality. The film’s portrayal of a vulnerable woman whose sense of power came from her use of *** was unflinching. This was a character driven story with a compelling plot and a stylish 1970’s background. Jane Fonda was gorgeous and sexy and sympathetic and complex in this role. I wound up slow-watching The Criterion Collection DVD, backing up to re-watch several scenes that were rich with nuance. Sutherland was perfect as the well intentioned detective drawn into the call girl’s orbit with a growing sense of shock, protectiveness and affection. And notice that Fonda’s call girl character has multiple pictures of JFK on her walls. This is one of those movies you might want to watch multiple times… unlike Three Days of the Condor which wore out its welcome before the final credits rolled.