Mr. Klein (1976)

 

 

 

 

Director:     Joseph Losey.

Starring:     Alain Delon (Mr. Klein),  Jeanne Moreau (Florence),  Francine Berg (Nicole),  Juliet Berto (Jeanine),  Jean Bouise (Le vendeur),  Suzanne Flon (La concierge),  Massimo Girotti (Charles),  Michael Lonsdale (Pierre),  Michel Aumont (Le fonctionnaire de la prfecture),  Roland Bertin (L'administrateur du journal),  Jean Champion (Le gardien de la morgue),  Etienne Chicot (Un policier),  Magali Clment (Lola),  Grard Jugnot (Le photographe),  Hermine Karagheuz (La jeune ouvrire).

the non-Jewish Klein exploits the Jewish people in occupied Paris, World War II, only to be mistaken as Jewish

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film:

 

"Mr. Klein is a fictitious character, a composite of the experiences of many individuals.  The facts are a matter of history.  They took place in France in 1942."

German-occupied France in WWII.  A doctor is measuring the spatial features of a nude Jewish woman.  She doesn't like it, but submits to it.  When the doctor finishes, she quickly runs behind the curtains to put her clothes back on.  She leaves the room, pays a fee and then walks out of the doctor's office.  She says nothing to her husband, but just wants to get away from the office.  There are many more Jewish people waiting to see the doctor. 

Away from the office the husband and wife try their best to console each other, because the husband went through something similar. 

A young, pretty mistress, named Jeanine, wakes up and gets out of bed.  She goes into the bathroom and puts her lipstick on.  Her boyfriend sneaks up behind her and gives her a scare.  Still in his rope, Robert Klein sees a Jewish man who wants to sell a painting that has been in the family for generations.  Klein has the man write out a statement that he is satisfied with the sale of his painting to Mr. Robert Klein, date the statement and sign it.  After the signing the Jewish fellow takes Klein's business card because, he says, he has many friends that are in the same situation as he is and they may want to sell various items to Klein.  Klein says he has dealt with a lot of people in a hurry to sell.

Klein opens the door to let the man out and discovers a menacing looking periodical that has been distributed to the Jews in the area.  The buyer and seller of goods is confused by the letter.  The Jewish fellow shows Klein that he has the same type of envelope as Klein.  They part company. 

French citizens attend an auction of the goods collected largely from Jewish citizens.  Klein leaves the auction and goes over to a restaurant.   He stands at a bar and the bartender puts down a cup of coffee and a telephone for Klein, who makes a phone call.  Klein now leaves the restaurant. 

Klein goes to see a French official to ask him about the notice he received the other day.  He asks the official why would he receive such a notice?  He is not one of this group of people.  The official says it is strange.  Maybe some friend of his signed Klein's name onto a list.  Klein says his friends wouldn't do this, unless they perhaps wanted to play a joke on him.  The official gets serious and asks Klein if he thinks that the government is joking about this?  Klein asks to be excused.  It's just that this whole matter seems so absurd to him.  The official tells Klein to go see the chief of police. 

At the police station the chief pulls out a card for Robert Klein from a box of index cards.  The card has Klein's full name and other correct information.  The only difference is that the addresses are not the same.  The chief now asks Klein for his actual address.  Klein looks worried about this, but gives his real address.  The chief, however, does not let Klein know the address already on the card.  Klein leaves. 

A group of men gather around a long table with one man at the head of the table.

The mistress reads a book, while Robert sits at a desk and muses over why the police should have his name and now his real address down on a card?   The mistress is bored with being in the bed so many hours, is tired of reading her book and has some wine to drink.  Then she starts to sing a piece of a song.  Robert tells her to read from another book.  She reads a sex scene, but soon stops reading.  Robert tells her to continue, but she only says she can't and throws the book on the end of the bed.

Klein sees and hears a woman talking to two men about him.  He listens in on the conversation and is spotted by the woman.  She tells the two men with her that this is the man she has been talking about.  She stops Klein as he walks by, but Klein denies that he is Robert Klein.  The woman is shocked that the man says he is not Mr. Klein, because he sure looks like him.  The two men leave.  Klein wants to see the apartment that the "other" Robert Klein used.  The lady shows the apartment, which is now for rent.  Klein looks through a book on a shelf and takes out an envelope for photographic film.  He also finds a bullet in one of the kitchen drawers along with a dog harness.  He goes in to look at the bathroom and picks up a straight edge razor above the sink.  This scares the landlady and she runs downstairs.  Now Klein leaves the apartment.

Klein has a man develop the film that was in the envelope in the book.  The camera shop employee tells him that the face of the man is too hidden to really see.  Klein takes the photo with him. 

Klein goes over to an apartment where he tries to kiss Nicole, but she only pulls away from him.  She complains about his being with a "prostitute".  He says it's just a friend.  She goes into the living room where a couple is dancing to the music.  Klein comes into the living room and greets the two couples there, as well as the lady's husband. The two policeman who were talking to the landlady are now here and they want to speak with Klein. Klein objects that he just recently talked with the chief of police and urges them to call him.  They do and the chief tells the men to drop the matter for now.  The policemen leave. 

Nicole's husband, who is also Klein's lawyer, talks with Klein and says there must be another man with the same name as Robert.  Klein agrees saying that it is probably somebody who hates him.  Jeanine comes down the steps.  Klein grabs her and twirls her around, while Nicole walks away from her.  She watches the couple disapprovingly. 

Klein walks around in his apartment filled with gorgeous pieces of furniture and art, most of which came from Jewish people under the gun of the Gestapo.  He receives a letter that seems to upset him a bit.  It is meant for the "other" Robert Klein.  It's a letter from a woman named Florence.  She says she has been waiting and longing to see him again. 

A train pulls into a station.  Mr. Klein stands by the door of the station.  A driver comes up to him and asks Klein to accompany him.  Klein gets in the car and goes with the man.  They arrive at a huge house complete with servants.  Klein is taken to a room filled with people listening to music played by a small group.  A man greets Klein and tells him to come with him.  Florence sees Klein and wonders who he is.  She takes two glasses of champagne on a tray over to the two men.  Meanwhile, Klein has told his host that there has been a mix-up.  When Florence enters the room the man, Florence's husband, tells her about the problem Klein faces.  Klein takes out the letter he received from Florence and shows it to her. 

The guests file past Klein and his two hosts to go into dinner.  Florence takes Klein by the arm and walks with him into the dining room.   At night while Klein sleeps, Florence comes into the guest room to see him.  They talk for awhile and Robert gives the letter to Florence, who quickly tears it up and throws it into the roaring fire of the fireplace.  They talk some more and it looks like there might be a romantic encounter, but a noise is heard outside and Florence says she must go because her husband is probably looking for her.  She goes downstairs and then outside.  Robert watches her from his window.  She rushes over to the man who Robert thinks is the other Robert Klein.  The two embrace and kiss and then the other Mr.. Klein gets back on his motorcycle and takes off. 

The next morning, Klein comes downstairs all dressed to leave.  But first he asks Florence about her past and how she met this other Mr. Klein?  She tries to tell him very little.  Klein prepares to leave when she finally gives him a street address to check out. 

In church the children receive communion.  Klein comes into the church late and is greeted by his mistress.  She mentions to him about the policemen being in the church.  Klein now goes to sit by Nicole and her husband.  He asks the husband if it is serious and he nods yes.   He asks Klein how many Jews are there in his family background?   Klein turns his head to look at the man, as if he's thinking, what gives you the right to ask me such a question? 

Klein speaks with his father about their family background.  Dad wants to know why?  At first Robert say it's just that he is curious, but he soon tells dad that the police want him to provide some information on his familial background.  Dad wants to know why the police want to know about his familial background?  His son tells him it's the law.  He then explains that there is another Robert Klein and he has a Jewish background.  Robert receives a phone call from his lawyer and Robert tells him what he knows about his familial background.  He says his family came from Marseilles and gives the maiden names of his mother and maternal grandmother.  Robert now asks his father if he knows anything about this other Robert Klein?  Dad says no.

Klein and his mistress attend a musical performance.  The performance has an anti-Semitic slant, portraying a Jewish man with a big hook nose and very thick and black eyebrows and mustache.  The character steals the gold chains off the neck of a woman.  There are German soldiers in uniform at the performance.  Klein notices that one of the chorus girls appears to have a penis in her pants.  At the end of the play there is a big applause for the actors.  Klein starts to clap, but his mistress grabs his hands to stop him.  In fact, she is so upset that she tells Klein that they are leaving.  And off they go. 

A bellhop goes around the restaurant calling repeatedly for Mr. Klein.  Klein is there with Nicole's husband, but won't answer the call.  The two men talk about Klein's familial background.  Robert admits that there are probably some Jewish people in his family tree..  He then gets up to identify himself to the bellhop, who takes Klein over to the place where the caller was.  Klein asks the bellhop what did the man look like?  He was tall, had brown hair and looked a lot like Mr. Klein himself.  Klein looks around and sees himself in a big mirror. 

Klein returns to the landlady frightened by him when he had a straight razor in his hand.  She doesn't want to give Klein the key to the apartment he looked at before.  She tells him the police don't want anyone in that room.  Klein forces his way in and gets the key to the room.  He climbs the stairs to the room.  He stops to ask the landlady the name of the woman accompanying the other Klein.  She says her name was Isabella. 

Klein lets himself into the room.  He picks up some white boots for ladies.  He picks up a short fuse and lights it to make sure what it is.  A telephone keeps ringing and Klein picks up the receiver.  A woman's voice asks if this is Robert?  Klein says yes.  The voice says she is in front of the building across the way.  When Klein asks what is she referring to, the woman hangs up on him. 

Klein goes back to the musical theater and asks around if anyone knows a woman named Isabella.  He asks one of the chorus girls, Lola, if she knows an Isabella.   Lola says no, so Klein shows her a photo of the someone in his photo on a motorcycle and with a large dog.  Lola looks at the photo and says this is a photo of Katy, who worked here for a little while. 

As Klein leaves the theater, we see that there is a man there dressing as a chorus girl.  Klein asks Lola where she last saw this Katy and she replies down in the metro.  Robert goes out to look a the people getting onto the metro.  He asks some women if they know the person in his photo.   They pass the photo around amongst the women.  A woman at the top of the stairs known as Michelle looks at the photo, says she doesn't know the person and then tears the photo up into little pieces and lets them drop to the ground.  She explains that she thought that this was just some kind of a joke.

The police in their cars surround a van of some type and then everyone gets out of their vehicles.  The police jump into the van.  The van goes around collecting more policeman off the streets.  The police reach their destination.  Their target is Mr. Klein and his collection of art.  With the police are Nichol and her husband.  Klein is very angry at the confiscation of his documents and his art collection.  The police chief tells him that it's the law. 

Klein sits his his comparatively empty apartment. 

In the morning Robert goes out to get a paper.  There is a German Shepherd dog at the newsstand and he follows Robert back to his place.  Robert tries to shoo the dog away, but he just goes back a little ways and then returns.  The next scene shows Robert with the dog at a small table out on the patio.   He calls out for Jeanine and she comes out.  He tells her all about the dog, but she does not appear to be interested.  In fact, she returns to packing a small suitcase.  She goes downstairs and tells Robert that she is going.  He tells her to sit and have some coffee.  He doesn't realize that she is really leaving him.  She puts on her hat and coat, grabs her suitcase and walks out on him. 

Robert goes to the morgue to check on a body.  The authorities killed five people.  The body he sees is badly mutilated.  The morgue attendant asks if Robert is a relative?  Klein says he is a friend of the deceased.

Robert with the dog goes to the train station.  His lawyer gives him a passport.  He has tickets for Robert for Marseilles and for Buenos Aires, Argentina.  The lawyer also gives Robert some money in a satchel.  Robert now hands over the dog to the lawyer.  He gets on the train.  As the train pulls out Jeanine runs beside Robert's window asking when he will return?  Robert just keeps repeating that he doesn't know when. 

On the train a pretty woman sits across from Robert.  He greets her with the name Francoise  --  no reaction.  He greets her with the name Katy  -- no reaction.  He finally tries the name Isabel.  The woman gives him her passport to show him her name is Natalie.   He then tells her they have a mutual friend:  Robert Klein.  She tells him that Robert is not his friend.  He left without saying goodbye to anyone. 

Robert returns to his lawyer's home. From there he calls Robert Klein.  The other Klein says he too has been searching for the other Klein.  They arrange to meet right away.  Robert leaves his lawyer's house and very carefully walks down the streets.  Jus as he is about to reach the other Klein's place, the police put the Jewish fellow into a car and drive away with him.  The landlady cries over her loss of the other Robert.  His lawyer shows up.  Robert starts choking his lawyer around the throat. 

Klein now goes into his old room.  He looks around.  He finds one of his paintings, the one sold to him by the Jewish man at the start of the film. The police come for Robert Klein, but Robert gives them a false name.  They grab Robert anyway and put him on a bus with a lot of Jewish people.  A Jewish woman asks him a lot of questions about what the German authorities plan to do with them?  Will they all be sent to Germany?  Robert just keeps repeating that he doesn't know anything.  He gets frustrated and yells that not only does he not know anything, he has nothing to do with any of this. 

The buses bring Robert and many, many others to a camp surrounded by guards and barbed wire.  The guards are all French. Over the loud speaker Robert hears his name called out.  He figures it must be the other Robert Klein and rushes forward to try to reach him.  His lawyer and the chief of police try to tell Robert to come over to them, since they have the documents necessary to substantiate his claim that he is the real Robert Klein, but he shouts back to them that he will return to speak to them.   

Robert has to go with the flow and is pushed onto the train with all the others.  He is totally silent as the train takes off for the concentration camp.  The Jewish fellow who sold his painting to Klein at the start of the film stands close to the non-Jewish Robert Klein. 

 

 Mr. Klein is a self-centered man who takes advantage of the Jews being shipped out to concentration camps by buying their great works of art and many other things for little money.  Some of the early descriptions of the film mention that Klein has an epiphany and comes to sympathize with the plight of the Jews.  No such thing happens.  Klein is a selfish opportunist at the start of the film and remains so throughout.  His problem is that he become absolutely obsessed with this "other" Robert Klein.  He wants to find this other man so badly that he never thinks beyond the immediate need to find the man.  He wants to tell the fellow off  -- to tell him how many problems the man caused him and to instruct him to tell the authorities that there are two Robert Kleins.  Because he is so focused on just finding the other man, he winds up in a very dangerous place.  One wonders when it will finally hit Robert Klein just how dangerous of a situation he has gotten himself into?  And to realize that the cause of his tragedy is his own flaw:  being self-centered and not having any sympathy for any other group of citizens behind mistreated (and killed) by the Germans.  Alain Delon (as Mr. Klein) is very good in his part. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

 

 

 

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