Death of William Klein, a radical filmmaker

In the cinema, William Klein goes one step further on his taste for castagne. His films betray his inclination for contact, vociferation, chaos. An aesthetic that carries a real political radicalism. Dreaming of being a total artist in the wake of the Bauhaus, Klein, after the visual arts and photography, embarked on cinema.

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It all started in 1958 with Broadway by Light, a gem of pop culture playing with shapes and light. The incipit itself is sparkling: “The Americans invented jazz to console themselves with death, the stars to console themselves with women. To console themselves for the night, they invented Broadway. » Chris Marker is credited for the subtitles, Alain Resnais as technical advisor, Anatole Dauman produces. We dream of a worse hitch, even if the film has no subtitles, Resnais took no part in it and Dauman discovered it was finished. Marker fomented everything: it was necessary to allow this American to benefit from the bonus for the quality of French cinema.

On the strength of these friendships which embody the “left bank” of French cinematographic modernity (the Nouvelle Vague is camped out on the other bank), the experience led him, a few years later, to swap the camera for the camera. Strange fictions are born of it. Who are you, Polly Maggoo? (1966) is a frenzied satire of the world of fashion and television that he knows inside out. Little or no history. A cloud of characters crystallized around an American model passing through Paris (Dorothy McGowan), coveted by a director who is doing a report on her (Jean Rochefort) and an operetta prince (Sami Frey). There are limpid reminiscences of Federico Fellini – his idol – and Jean-Luc Godard. Or the marriage of the carp and the rabbit.

The experience leads him to swap the camera for the camera. Strange fictions, muddled and electrified, are born from it

Mister Freedom (1969) doubles the bet of the previous one with fanfare. Consider a superhero of Yankee imperialism sent to France – a land sensitive to reds – to counter the influence of Red China Man and Moujik Man. This time we draw squarely towards farce and comics, even though the picture of the political, cultural and social involution of American society which is allegorized there can pass for visionary. The film is nevertheless slightly indigestible, notwithstanding a cast of actors as high as Delphine Seyrig, Philippe Noiret, Yves Montand, Simone Signoret, Daniel Cohn-Bendit or Serge Gainsbourg.

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