Monday 3 August 2020

Klute (1971)

On of my favorite genres is that of the noir. Classic noir, neo-noir, sci-fi noir, that does not matter. Hell, I am watching Jessica Jones on Netflix and that is a Marvel noir. Something about the mood and pacing of noir movies make them awesome, at least to me, and in “Klute” I found a wonderful example of noir.

Tom Gruneman from somewhere in Pennsylvania has disappeared and as regular policework has proven fruitless, Peter Cable (Charles Cioffi), his partner or manager, hires a local detective, John Klute (Donald Sutherland) to find him. Apparently, Tom has been writing obscene letters to a high-end prostitute in New York. Klute looks her up and finds more than he bargained for.

Bree Daniels (Jane Fonda) is in many ways the complete opposite of the small town detective Klute. She is adapted to the big city with cynicism and rough edges. She is edgy and street-wise, but also lonely. The deadpan honesty of Klute clashes completely with the layers of pretense which is Daniels world. Yet each of them finds in the other something they are missing in themselves.

From this point the movie follows two tracks. One is the lost person case which takes both of them deeper and deeper into unsavory territory of drugs, abuse and murders. The other is a development story, particularly on Daniels’ side. We get a window into her thoughts through her conversations with her psychiatrist and these monologues function like the voice-over narrator in a typical noir. From these we see her gradually break out of her shell and become vulnerable. A state she does not like and seek to escape.

I do not know which of the two are the most interesting. I suppose the movie is depending on both parts, but they also create a bit of a disconnect. There is a period in the middle of the movie where the crime story moves so much into the background it is almost forgotten. The case however is the nerve of the movie so luckily it does return and with a vengeance.

For me there are two things to this movie I really love. One is the mood. There are a lot of night scenes with an amazing score. There were parts where I saw a kinship to “Bladerunner” and it gave me the shivers. This goes with the slow pace and the phycological elements of loneliness and estrangement.

The second is this classic noir feature that there is so much we do not know and will never know. There is a world outside the camera and outside the characters knowledge, loose ends that creates mystery and danger. Sometimes this is frustrating, but when it works, like here, it adds layers of depth to the story.

Jane Fonda won the Academy award for Best Actress and that was well deserved. She is very convincing in a role that could have gone very extreme, but was very human.

I think my only complaint is that my copy was ridiculously poor. It was some Spanish import without subtitles and very poor picture quality. It would be worthwhile to seek out a better version. That is the penalty for buying these things cheap.

Definitely a recommendation, especially for noir fans.



  1. I really like this one too. I had a screen crush on Sutherland at one time and this is one of his best performances, not to mention Fonda who was perfect.

    1. Donald Sutherland is okay here, but to my mind he mostly serve as audience to Fonda, sounding board even. He is wooden but intentionally to highly Fonda's characters sophistication and instability. Fonda is for my the main attraction in this movie and Sutherland is good at making her that.