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Paris, 1942. Robert Klein cannot find any fault with the state of affairs in German-occupied France. He has a well-furnished flat, a mistress, and business is booming. Jews facing discrimination because of laws edicted by the French government are desperate to sell valuable works of art - and it is easy for him to get them at bargain prices. His cosy life is disrupted when he realizes that there is another Robert Klein in Paris - a Jew with a rather mysterious behaviour. Very soon, this homonymy attracts the close - and menacing - attention of the police on the established art trader. Written by
Eduardo Casais <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Joseph Losey's dark moody drama of a man and his double or his shadow takes place in Paris of 1942 during the Nazi Occupation. Mr. Klein, in excellent performance by Alain Delon (if anybody ever tells you that Delon is nothing but a pretty face, NEVER believe it. Delon is a great actor with amazing screen presence who happened to be one of the most beautiful people ever lived), is a French Catholic antique dealer, successful with his business and adored by the ladies. At first, he does not care much about the occupation and the fate of Jews who had to sell their pricey pieces of Art and personal belongings for a song just to be able to leave France and to save their lives. On the contrary, he only becomes richer but everything changes when he is confused with another Robert Klein, his namesake, a wanted by the authorities' member of the underground resistance and a Jew. In the atmosphere of the total fear, bigotry, hatred, and paranoia, the "presumption of innocence" ceases to exist and Mr. Klein must prove that he is not a Jew or to face the fate of millions whose fault was to belong to the "inferior race". While trying to claim his comfortable life back, Mr. Klein begins looking for the man he never met but who by the bitter irony of fate had played such a significant role in his life. The desire to look him in the eye becomes so overwhelming that it will take Robert to where he may not be able to ever come back.
"Mr. Klein" is a complex, subtle, scary, and nightmarish film made by a very talented director who had to leave his country, the USA, in the beginning of the 50s and who knew a thing or two about paranoia and hatred multiplied by the power and turned into indifferent killing machine. Once you are inside this machine, "Abandon hope all ye who enter here". Losey's film is often described as a blend of Hitchcock's thrillers where the heroes must deal with the mistaken identity and Kafka's nightmares of "The Trial" and I agree with the description. I only want to add that the film brings to mind Edgar Poe's short story "William Wilson" which was adapted to the screen by Luis Malle as a part of the trilogy "Histoires extraordinaires" (1968) and Alain Delon played both William Wilson and the mysterious man, his double, his conscience, his dark and hidden side. "Mr. Klein" also reminds another underrated, rarely seen but very interesting Ingmar Bergman's film "The Serpent's Egg" (1977) as well as Bob Fosse's masterpiece "Cabaret". The themes of the Feast during the Time of Plague, the helplessness and distress of the terrorized members of society that face the merciless and inevitable force of history and would perish without a trace, are similar in all three movies. Despite these similarities, "Mr. Klein" is an outstanding film on its own merits. What saddens me is the fact that is little known, rarely seen and almost never mentioned even among the film buffs.
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