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August 09, 2023

MR. KLEIN — THE CRITERION COLLECTION

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ColeSmithey.comJoseph Losey's Nazi-era war drama is based on a composite of actual people and events wherein French police collaborated to arrest Jews and send them away to concentration camps.

Working from a script by Franco Solinas ("The Battle of Algiers"), Mr. Losey combines different filmic styles toward a slow-burn climax that is arresting.

The year is 1942.

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The film's brooding sense of privacy invasion by local authorities and occupying forces darkens as the film's opportunist title character unknowingly puts himself under ever increasing scrutiny by Jew-hunting French police. 

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It seems that Mr. Klein has a mysterious Jewish would-be doppelgänger who goes by the same name. Mr. Klein's hubris and self-hating racism drive him into grotesque agony.

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Alain Delon remains the most iconic image of inscrutable masculinity that French Cinema provides. Mr. Delon put skin in the game to produce "Mr. Klein," with the assertion that Blacklisted expat American director Joseph Losey be given the Director's chair.

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Mr. Klein (Alain Delon) deals in Parisian antiques. Mr. Klein lives among his gilded treasures in a palatial Paris apartment he shares with his bed-loving girlfriend. Mr. Klein is openly insulting to his Jewish clientele, of whose predicament he takes full financial advantage when purchasing their art works for pennies on the dollar.

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Entropy takes over Mr. Klein's life as even his trusted lawyer openly betrays him in light of Mr. Klein's inability to prove his heritage as other than Jewish. Now that Mr. Klein is in the police department's system, he is stuck on an uncertain path toward death.

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Mr. Losey is careful to include the LGTBQ culture of the era in telling sequences with Parisian showgirls.

Complex in its narrative, Joseph Losey's historically accurate "Mr. Klein" (1975) predicts our modern day tech dystopia of surveillance capitalism that has ruptured every society, and the planet, to the point of near or present collapse.

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"Mr. Klein" is a haunting film for the reflexive dichotomy it shares between the dystopia of World War II France, and the totalitarian existence we experience today.

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In 2023, we are all Mr. Klein.

Rated PG. 123 mins.

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

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