(director: Joseph Losey; screenwriters: Fernando Morandi/Franco Solinas; cinematographer: Gerry Fisher; editors: Marie Castro-Vazquez/Henri Lanoë/Michele Neny; music: Egisto Macchi/Pierre Porte; cast: Alain Delon (Mr. Klein), Jeanne Moreau (Florence), Suzanne Flon (La concierge), Michel Lonsdale (Pierre), Juliet Berto (Jeanine), Francine Bergé (Nicole), Jean Bouise (Le vendeur), Louis Seigner (Le père de Robert Klein), Michel Aumont (Le fonctionnaire de la préfecture), Massimo Girotti (Charles), Roland Bertin (L’administrateur du journal); Runtime: 123; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Raymond Danon/Alain Delon/Robert Kuperberg/Jean-Pierre Labrande; Home Vision Entertainment; 1976-France/Italy-in French with English subtitles)
“Great acting by Delon, a great premise and great atmosphere, make this nearly a great film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Director Joseph Losey (“Galileo”/”Don Giovanni”/”The Assassination of Trotsky”) offers an intriguing idea for a psychological war drama that peters out when the director (and writers Fernando Morandi & Franco Solinas) wrongly chooses to keep it puzzling and therefore never fully gets to the higher aims the film alludes to (the implications of France’s morally ambivalent reaction to the Nazi invasion) by keeping it mysterious in a pedestrian way.
In 1942, dapper, prosperous French-Catholic Parisian antique and art dealer, Mr. Klein (Alain Delon), exploits the persecuted Jews during Germany’s occupation of France by purchasing artworks at extremely cheap prices. Mr. Klein is enjoying the occupation and not caring about the suffering of others, happy to be with his mistress Nicole (Francine Bergé), who is married to his lawyer friend Pierre (Michael Lonsdale), and living the good life. Things turn sour when he’s mistakenly delivered a Jewish newspaper and finds he’s been placed on an undesirable list, as there’s a Jewish Robert Klein, a wanted man, out there that he’s suddenly mistaken for. Caught in a case of mistaken identity, he now vigorously pursues trying to get his name off the list–which is no easy task. The film takes on Kafkaesque nightmarish undertones and under great stress Klein chooses to assume his alter ego’s identity and in the end gets deported (one would think that this relates to Losey’s self-exile when blacklisted by HUAC in the 1950s).
Great acting by Delon, a great premise and great atmosphere, make this nearly a great film. It was the winner of the Cesar (French Oscar Award) for Best Picture and Best Director.
REVIEWED ON 10/18/2008 GRADE: B+