With a strange name like “Klute” I wondered what’s in store, considering all I knew was that this was an early Alan J. Pakula film and the first of his informally known “Paranoia trilogy”.
Things start to happen immediately as the credits begin to roll, and we soon come across the situation around which “Klute” is centered. Tom Gruneman, a Pennsylvania executive has disappeared without a trace, under mysterious circumstances. It is after six whole months of wasted efforts and no outcome on part of the police, that Gruneman’s friend and colleague Peter Cable (Charles Cioffi) entrusts the responsibility of investigating the disappearance to Tom’s family friend, John Klute (Donald Sutherland). All he has, to start with, is an obscene letter, apparently written by Gruneman to a New York prostitute named Bree Daniels (Jane Fonda). With the Bree Daniels link, Klute begins his investigation hoping to reach Gruneman.
But Klute soon realizes that things aren’t gonna be easy, as it becomes difficult to get the reluctant Bree to talk. Bree is a call-girl but is clearly not enjoying it. She wants to be an actress, but doesn’t seem to be getting a break. In the midst of all this she is haunted by the constant feeling of being stalked. She feels she is being followed around, even gets blank calls in the wee hours of the night! Obviously in a troubled state of mind, she visits a shrink from time to time and reveals her deepest fears to her.
The film then delves upon Klute’s investigations and Bree’s personal problems as it moves along its steady and gripping screenplay. Does he finally uncover the mystery of Gruneman’s disappearance? Is there more to it than he can ever handle?
“Klute” reminded me of Francis Ford Coppola’s terrific psychological drama “The Conversation” on many levels. Although “Klute” came out before “The Conversation”, one can’t help but notice the astounding similarities in the “atmosphere” of both the films. The film is slow-paced, there is considerable focus on surveillance and the use of tape-recorded voices, the constant paranoia of being followed and watched all the time, along with other things. Of course, that said, the two films are completely different in terms of plot and central theme.
This is only Pakula’s second film as director and he does a fantastic job with the material at hand, the screenplay written by Andy and Dave Lewis. It is great to see Donald Sutherland underplay his character of Klute, thus making his performance quite memorable. Jane Fonda is superb in her Oscar winning role as the troubled call-girl wanting to quit. The always dependable Roy Scheider appears briefly in an important role as Frank Ligourin, Bree’s former pimp and makes sure he makes a mark in whatever little screen time he gets! Michael Small’s enigmatic music is creepy and at some point reminded me of some B-horror films but that is actually a compliment as the music suits some of the more nail-biting moments shot in the dark.
However I must admit that while the film is built up in a pretty solid fashion up to its climax, the final few minutes are a tad disappointing…but maybe it’s just me; perhaps I was expecting a bit more from this film and hence ended up feeling somewhat underwhelmed!
Nonetheless, credit must be given where it is due, and this film is surely a must-see for lovers of old school mysteries and whodunits!