Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? (1966)

Turning to the Eclipse box of three William Klein films now. Klein I knew of purely by reputation, I think I saw the trailer for Mr Freedom at Mu-Meson Archives or something like that; at any rate, I heard of that film through them before the Eclipse set came out, but otherwise I knew practically nothing. So we’re marching into uncharted waters for me here again, and, um. If Klein’s intention was to perplex the hell out of me, he succeeded admirably. This was his first film, prior to which he’d been a photographer, including fashion shoots for the likes of Vogue, so he was well acquainted with the world of high fashion he was looking to skewer in his film debut (I presume he wasn’t looking for any more photographic assignments in that field), which revolves around the titular Polly, an American model in Paris taking the fashion world by storm and becoming something of an object of fantasy to many, including the prince of a rather below-average eastern European country and a TV journalist assigned to do a profile on her. I’ve read a review which complains that Polly comes across as an empty vessel, but surely that was the point; a bigger problem is the one raised here, i.e. that satirising the fashion industry is really fish-in-a-barrel stuff, and more problematic still is that there’s an air of aimlessness to the enterprise. The lack of narrative direction blunts the force of the satire and made the whole experience a pretty wearing one. In its defence there are some pretty sharp moments (e.g. when the journalist says if the world were ending models would only care about their mascara, Polly retorts that if the world were ending he would only care about filming it), and Klein exhibits a presentational flair that suggests a much more experienced filmmaker than someone making their fiction feature debut. Maybe I need to give it a second viewing and foreknowledge of what to expect will help it go down better.

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