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Performer Mayyadda singing at the University of Minnesota Juneteenth Celebration “We Are The Noise: The Echoes of Our Ancestors” captured on Saturday, June 15.
Best photos of June '24
Published June 23, 2024

Scathing satires and in-depth documentaries

Director William Klein and his odd body of works comes to the Walker
Klein searching for his muse. PHOTO COURTESY WILLIAM KLEIN
Image by Ashley Goetz
Klein searching for his muse. PHOTO COURTESY WILLIAM KLEIN

WHAT: âÄúIn & Out of Fashion: The Films of William KleinâÄù WHEN: May 15 âÄì June 26 WHERE: Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave. When one thinks of great American film directors, the name William Klein scarcely comes to mind. Maybe this is due to his expatriation to France or possibly itâÄôs a result of his peculiar films. Whatever the reason, the Walker Art Center has decided that KleinâÄôs body of work is too important to be cast to the winds. Starting on May 15, the Walker will host a diverse selection of screenings covering KleinâÄôs 60-year career. Klein began working as a photographer in the âÄô50s, experiencing great success shooting fashion spreads, but soon shifted his focus to film. His first foray into the medium was 1958âÄôs experimental short film âÄúBroadway by Light,âÄù which in 12 minutes captured the spirit of the streets and lights of New York City, the directorâÄôs hometown. Following this debut, Klein chose to make two dissimilar kinds of films: documentaries and social satires with topics ranging from the religiosity of Little Richard to the war in Vietnam. The WalkerâÄôs screening series begins with one of KleinâÄôs more controversial films, âÄúMr. Freedom.âÄù ItâÄôs the story of an American superhero that is sent to France to save them from the communists. When he finds out they donâÄôt want to be saved, he decides he must destroy the entire country. The film was banned by the French government and has been called âÄúthe most anti-American movie ever made.âÄù ItâÄôs the perfect introduction to KleinâÄôs stylistic blend of realism and experimentalism, along with his strange brand of satirical humor. Day two features âÄúWho Are You, Polly Maggoo?âÄù a film that satirizes the fashion industry in which Klein actively participated. Polly is a young model on a French TV show that delves into the private details of her life. ItâÄôs an eerie precursor to reality television and celebrity obsessions that are now so deeply engrained in our culture. Klein again touches on the topics of voyeurism and consumer culture with the film âÄúThe Model Couple.âÄù In this bizarre sci-fi satire a couple takes part in a six-month-long study where they are placed under constant surveillance by a group of behavioral scientists. The film debuted back in 1975 and tackled the specific absurdities of social life at the time, but it holds up in todayâÄôs world both in terms of content and filmic technique. While reality is nowhere near as eccentric as his satires, Klein still approaches it from unconventional angles. His documentaries cover larger-than-life characters with a mixture of actual footage and unconventional secondhand accounts. In âÄúThe Little Richard Story,âÄù Klein collects footage from the various parts of the self-proclaimed rock âÄònâÄô roll kingâÄôs career, from his early rise to his later evangelicalism. But the film quickly gets quirky when Little Richard walks off the set. With his subject on the lamb, Klein decides to interview people from RichardâÄôs hometown as well as a number of over-the-top impersonators. The result is a documentary that doesnâÄôt necessarily get at the man behind the persona, but instead shows how he has influenced countless fans. In âÄúMuhammad Ali the Greatest,âÄù KleinâÄôs most well-known documentary, the director exhibits the former heavyweight champ through an extensive array of early recordings. The fly-on-the-wall footage chronicles AliâÄôs early days as the young Cassius Clay, capturing his defeat of Sonny Liston and moving through the years to the infamous âÄúRumble in the Jungle.âÄù Ali was always an outrageous character, but Klein magnifies the fact and makes the boxer all the more appealing. Ultimately, KleinâÄôs approach is endearing in its idiosyncratic nature. He tackles unusual subject matter and looks upon it with a highly original and affectionate gaze that makes even the oddest theme seem relatable.

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