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  Who Are you, Polly Maggoo? Fashion Victim
Year: 1966
Director: William Klein
Stars: Dorothy McGowan, Jean Rochefort, Sami Frey, Grayson Hall, Philippe Noiret, Alice Sapritch, Fernando Arrabal, Guy d'Avout, Roger Constant, Francis Dumoulin, Luce Fabiole, Isabelle Garçon, Violette Leduc, Michèle Loubet, Marie Marc, Delphine Seyrig
Genre: Comedy, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: There is a new fashion show being staged in Paris where the models are dressed in the latest innovation in clothing: aluminium. Behind the scenes in the dressing room they are decked out in abstract metal shapes which are incredibly diffilcult to wear, yet when they get out in front of an audience they are greeted with a reverent reception, as if their garments don't deserve derision but awe instead. No matter that at least one of the models has been cut by her clothes, nobody dares to accuse the fashion world of being out of touch...

Which leads us to the main character, the titular Polly Maggoo, also a model and played by a model (Dorothy McGowan), so you can understand director William Klein had something to say about the fashion inudstry. None of it was good, as it turned out, for although the American expat in France had made his name as a photographer for many a chic magazine such as Vogue, he appeared on this evidence to have a real beef against the whole affair, so while he was mainly a documentary maker thereafter, he did occasionally dabble in fiction though as you could see it was fiction with plenty to say about the real world.

He did not appear to be bothered about making his movies accessible, and many was the viewer who would end up browbeaten into the ground by Klein's remonstrative methods without being one hundred percent sure they were entirely clear about what they were being ordered to think. Certainly there was a playfulness to the director's stylings which you might have thought conveyed his concerns with a lightness of touch, only the opposite was true: in this case, fashion is depicted with such heavy handed bile that Klein's problems with its shallowness and in his mind detrimental effect on culture came across as well-nigh pathological.

Yet there was no denying he had an eye for a striking image, and in McGowan an intriguing muse for this project. She was a New York model who Klein often enjoyed working with, so was the natural choice to star as Polly; it was her sole film role and after this she dropped off the radar completely. If this was not so relatively obscure it might have made her a minor pop icon as she undoubtedly had a look the camera was attracted to: quite often when she's in the scene it's her you will be drawn to in spite of the co-stars being of the not inconsiderable calibre of Jean Rochefort and Sami Frey. Much of that could be down to the need for the audience to find someone to latch onto, of course.

And since Polly appears as baffled by her lifestyle as many of those watching would be, she seems the safest bet to act as a guide through what could be an impenetrably dense satire, so much so that it gets weird early on and doesn't let up until the Roland Topor-sketched end credits. Polly does become the focus of a magazine show entitled Who Are You?, or Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo? as the film was called in French, directed by Rochefort who warms to the girl and becomes one of many men attracted to her. Indeed, the opening scenes after the metal dresses are concerned with men throwing themselves at her as she walks down the street, brushing them all aside as if sick of the attention. Frey played an actual Prince Charming who wants to sweep Polly off her feet, fairy tale style, but Klein gets so wrapped up in potshots at the hipster culture of the sixties that you imagine this meant most to him and him alone. Still, if you stick with it, there is entertainment to be had if you can get used to the half furious/half amused ideas. Music by Michel Legrand.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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