Vote now in the 2021 Best of San Antonio Readers Poll.

Video & DVD 

A respected family man vanishes, and the police have only one lead: obscene letters found in his desk, addressed to an NYC call girl named Bree (Jane Fonda). A straight-laced friend of the family, policeman John Klute (a young Donald Sutherland) follows this lead obsessively, getting drawn into Bree's life as he dredges up uncomfortable bits of her past.

Sounds like just another detective movie, maybe with some gratuitous breasts thrown in for whorehouse mise-en-scène. Au contraire - there is absolutely nothing gratuitous in this film. It's a thriller without the obligatory chase scene, a murder mystery without gore. Instead, Klute has actual character development, and not where you'd expect it. Our protagonist doesn't need any extra exposition: he's created entirely of ambiguous silence, plain talk that reveals some small-town naïveté, and Sutherland's brooding stare. Bree, on the other hand, is one of the richest prostitute roles in screen history, and Fonda runs with it. We listen in on her therapy sessions, see her with johns, and watch as she struggles to decide what to make of Klute. It takes a while to realize that this film, named for him, is all about her - whodunnit be damned.

The two develop a very hesitant, almost unacknowledged romance, and Klute finds himself protecting Bree from a stalker who may be his vanished friend. Cinematographer Gordon Willis (vet of The Godfather and many Woody Allen films, he's known as the "prince of darkness" because of his fondness for shooting in deep shadows) heightens this uncertaintly wherever he finds it, favoring lopsided compositions with lots of mysterious empty space in them. In his hands, even clichés - like shots from the stalker's point of view - look fresh.

Meanwhile, screenwriters Andy and Dave Lewis throw out everything that is unnecessary - including some lingering questions we have about the missing person case - and director Alan Pakula sticks to that plan, never trying to make things more clear than they should be. Klute is that rare mystery film that actually has some mystery to it after the credits roll.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the San Antonio Current Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the San Antonio Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

More by John DeFore

Read the Digital Print Issue

June 2, 2021

View more issues

Newsletters

Join SA Current Newsletters

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Calendar

© 2021 San Antonio Current

Website powered by Foundation