Mr Klein

Monsieur Klein in the shadows

Mr Klein is a film about a mindset as much as a man or an event. The event is the Holocaust, the mindset is of a man called Mr Klein, played by Alain Delon, a French art dealer who, one day in 1942 in Nazi-occupied Paris, is tagged as being a Jew. But he isn’t Jewish, Mr Klein insists. Why the idea is laughable, absurd. Somewhere in Paris there’s obviously another Monsieur Klein who is Jewish, but I’m not that guy. This is nothing more than a simple case of mistaken identity. And for the rest of the film Monsieur Klein keeps up his protestations, turning detective to try and flush out the … Read more

Elevator to the Scaffold

Julien with knife trying to escape

Lean, spare and elegant, Elevator to the Gallows isn’t so lucky when it comes to titles. It also turns up as Elevator to the Scaffold, Lift to the Scaffold (particularly in the UK) and even Frantic (says the IMDb, though this must be vanishingly unusual). Or, in the original French Ascenseur pour l’échafaud. It’s Louis Malle’s debut. He was only 24 at the time. And the plot is simple but fiendish. A man seen in opening shots on the phone arranging to meet his lover Florence (Jeanne Moreau) first has to deal with some business at work. Namely, killing his boss and making it look like suicide. Murder most foul accomplished, Julien (Maurice … Read more

La Notte

Jeanne Moreau and Marcello Mastroianni

It’s called The Night, the IMDb tells us, though I’ve never heard Antonioni’s 1961 drama called anything but La Notte. So let’s use the original title. It’s pithy. As Italian phrases go this one is not hard to say and it’s distinctive. There are plenty of films called The Night already. The title is as stark as the film’s opening moments. The credits are written in an unfussy sans serif font. The theme music is atonal. The first images we see are of glass and steel buildings shot to emphasise their angularity. La Notte is the mid-century modern movie – sleek, unadorned, made out of good materials and not entirely comfortable. Isn’t life … Read more