Joseph Losey’s French drama, Mr Klein (Monsieur Klein) is a quietly understated WWII thriller which features a powerful-yet-subdued performance from Alain Delon in the title role. The 1976 film draws tension from the mundane and it doesn’t give away any easy answers to its audience. Losey’s piece is carefully constructed so that the viewer is as much in the dark as Delon’s Klein, as he wanders the streets of Paris in search of his doppelgänger
Set in Nazi-occupied France in 1942, Delon plays Robert Klein, an art dealer who buys artwork at knockdown prices from Jewish sellers who need the cash to flee the country. One day a copy of a Jewish newspaper lands on his doorstep and this leads to a series of events which sees him brought to the attention of the authorities. They put him on their Jewish watch list and Klein, eager to clear his name and salvage his reputation goes in search of the other Robert Klein.
Losey’s film points its lens at a lot of different themes- obsession, fear, pride, curiosity, vanity and paranoia. It’s all wrapped-up in Delon’s performance. He’s riveting as the man who first sees the case of mistaken identity as nothing more than an inconvenience, before he realises the full implication of the mix-up. The central mystery of the identity of the other Klein isn’t really the driving force of the film – it doesn’t even get a satisfactory resolution. Its the raison d’être is to set things in motion so that Klein and his life begin to unravel. That’s the real crux of the story. It’s perfectly handled by Delon, who manages to get across the art dealer’s total self-obsession right until the film’s final scene.
Mr Klein is a film which poses a lot of questions – questions which it purposefully fails to answer. It’s a bold look at Nazi-occupied Paris and a real curiosity piece. It’s likely that Joseph Losey’s won’t be accessible to everyone, but it’s very clear that was never really its intention.
Blu-ray Special Features
StudioCanal’s has released a 4K restoration of Mr Klein on blu-ray to celebrate the film’s 45th anniversary. The restoration was undertaken by Hiventy with the support of CNC (Centre National du Cinéma). The disc comes with an introduction by Jean-Baptiste Thoret and Mr Klein Revisited by Michel Ciment and an interview with Henri Lanoe.