This is one of Criterion's best Eclipse series. I had never heard of William Klein until recently. The folks at the Sundance Channel had played Klein's film Who Are You, Polly Magoo? a few times, and I really liked what I saw. So I decided to rent the entire series.
William Klein is known for his photography, but during the 1960's, he was an expatriate living in Paris where he made these 3 films, Who Are You, Polly Magoo?, Mr. Freedom, and The Model Couple. Many films from this time period are dated, but these 3 films are still contemporary in their attitudes and are timeless because of Klein's irreverence and excellent mise-en-scene. The best of the bunch is Who Are You, Polly Magoo?. It's a funny, still relevant story of a fashion model being interviewed for a French TV programme that isn't really interested in Polly, just interested in interviewing the "fashion model of the month". There is a lot of funny satire in this film, especially the way Klein satrizes the pretentions of these people and their questionable tastes in "fashion". The framing in this film is especially striking and totally unique, making it one of the best films I've seen in a while.
The 2nd film, Mr. Freedom, has all the trappings of a film that is completely dated. Its central character is literally titled Mr. Freedom, a parody of LBJ and the Vietnam, macho mentality that was especially vivid in the late 60's. But that mentality hasn't really gone away in America, or the world. In fact, many of the lines espoused by Mr. Freedom were said by Bush in the run up to the Iraq War, almost word for word (like "freedom is on the march" and "you're either with us or against us")! Did Bush see Mr. Freedom before his run up to the war? Probably not, but the mentality still exists. Despite Bush being out of the White House, don't think this mentality will ever disappear, here or in the rest of the world. Mr. Freedom has many funny moments, especially a cameo by Jesus and when a son of Mr. Freedom's girlfriend calls him a fascist, and Mr. Freedom's feelings are deeply hurt.
The 3rd film, The Model Couple, is a Truman Show like satire (though it was made years before that, and is funnier and fresher than The Truman Show) of French TV and the French government attempting to find the "model couple", or, find the best way to reach that model couple as consumers first, human beings second. Naturally, the couple doesn't like being manipulated by the scientists, the producers, and the government, so everyone gets on each others' nerves and a children's "terrorist" organisation ends up taking the model couple hostage (on orders from the scientists/producers) for ratings. The movie even has the air headed TV panel discussing the impact of the show. The film, despite being forty years old, is still provocative and valid.
I was really expecting these 3 films to be products of their time, but I was magnificently surprised when I watched them, and didn't feel that anything was dated about them. They are all immensely watchable and intelligently done. Kudos to Criterion/Eclipse for making these films available.