Klute (1971)

Klute (1971), produced and directed by Alan J. Pakula.

Small town private eye Donald Sutherland goes to NYC to hunt for a missing friend who is suspected of stalking and harassing call girl Jane Fonda.

She's an intriguing figure: she's smart and wants to be an actress or model but can't get away from prostitution. Partly it's the money but also because in that work she's in control and is desired by her customers, whereas no one seems to want her otherwise. At home she smokes dope and sings a little hymn. She's afraid of the dark and of whoever is stalking her: feelings of being watched, mysterious callers breathing on the phone. Maybe it's that client who beat her up? The cold-fingers-on-the-spine music is very good in these moments.

The private eye is the pest in her life and she eventually gives in and takes him around to her contacts. This could have been a long tedious segment of PI-procedural, but is really a fine display of what's in store for her, and we see it slowly sinking in: prospects of drug addiction, abusive pimps, all those morgue photos.

To their mutual dismay they start falling for each other. But can he trust someone so good at selling the illusion of love? Can she trust herself? Need I mention that the investigation brings them to a murderous psycho, both smart and scary?

Several scenes of Fonda confessing to her shrink seem ad-libed and go on a bit long, although frank sex talk is of perennial interest. We get some of the surveillance paranoia also used in The Conversation (1974) and The Anderson Tapes (1971) around the same time.

"Klute" is the detective. The movie should be called Bree or Daniels but that wouldn't have the same kick. At least they didn't call it [ Fatal | Deadly ] [ Passion | Attraction | Instinct | Sin ].

Brief nudity. Best Actress Academy Award for Fonda.