In this excoriating satire of the fashion industry, Polly Maggoo is a 20-year-old Brooklyn-born fashion model in Paris, on the runway at the big shows where magazine editor Ms. Maxwell is ... See full summary »
In this excoriating satire of the fashion industry, Polly Maggoo is a 20-year-old Brooklyn-born fashion model in Paris, on the runway at the big shows where magazine editor Ms. Maxwell is the reigning opinion maker. The ridiculous passes for sublime. Polly becomes the subject of an episode of a vapid TV news documentary series called "Qui êtes-vous?" and is pursued by the filmmaker and by the prince of Borodine, a small country in the Soviet bloc. We watch as the documentary is shot, we await Polly's arrival in the principality, we observe a lunch in the suburbs, and we learn of her childhood. Is there more to Polly than her pretty face? Is anything below the surface? Written by
Although certainly superior to the other two releases in the Eclipse 3 DVD set of William Klein films, 'Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?' still suffers from the same debilitating loss of steam and shapelessness which bog down the later 'Mr. Freedom' and the prescient (if turgid) 'The Model Couple'.
After a promising start with a Paris fashion show, where rake-thin models parade through a cave in Dadaesque conical aluminium outfits, we are introduced to the eponymous heroine who is being profiled for a TV show which shares the films title. Dorothy McGowan is the unconventionally pretty (and highly appealing) Polly, whose life story is that of a 1960's Cinderella; plucked from obscurity from a crowd of Beatles fans at Kennedy Airport, as she was in real life, and rocketed to become the next supermodel. We are also introduced to an ennui glazed Prince, who fantasizes about procuring Polly, while the director of the TV profile slowly comes to find himself ensnared by her bemused charm. Cross-cut with this basic story are pretty pointless secondary characters who amount to little in the grander scheme of the film. There are the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern like dolts who go off to try and fetch Polly for their Prince (their absurdist exploits become highly annoying before long) and an sadly underwritten Rasputin-like figure who seemingly works for the Prince's mother.
Although often labeled as a critique of the fashion industry (surely a very soft target for satire) there is much more going on in the heart of this film. Klein has plenty of scope to pursue the meaninglessness of celebrity and how all (even those who posses it themselves) can succumb to the fantasy ideal that it enticingly instills in us, along with notions of individual self and the ever present critique of American vs. European sensibility. However, too many scenes are fractured away from the main points (the minutiae of the Prince's daydreams get rather tedious) and the change in mediums, like the animated sequences, seem thrown in to try and grab the audiences interest from floundering rather than present any real structural intention. Fantasy sequences such as Polly's daydream about the TV directors family (reminiscent in tone to the 1965 Terry Southern scripted masterpiece 'The Loved One') show some gripping vision but, again and again, Klein drops the ball by succumbing to the same excesses which would later characterize a certain type of 1960's film-making (such as the all-star spoof 'Casino Royale' or the great Alexander Mackendrick's directorial swan song, 'Don't Make Waves' - both released 1967).
As a visionary stylist, Klein excels but as a theorist and social commentator he flounders hopelessly in circular arguments and observations. As with the director's other fictional films, 'Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?' gives plenty in the way of wacky antics and visually impressive set-pieces but delivers little in regards to a coherent, tightly structured film experience.
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