Someone is watching you—you don’t know where the stalker is hidden, but eyes are watching your every movement. Klute delves into your primal fears. It taps into the fear that someone is watching you when the lights are out and something goes bump in the closet. The title refers to Donald Sutherland’s private detective character John Klute. Klute is sent to investigate the disappearance of a business executive. He comes into contact with his only lead–a New York call girl, Bree Daniels (Jane Fonda)– who herself is being stalked by an unknown person.
Unlike other mystery film-noir like the Lady of Shanghai, the movie is not about the mystery. Klute has more in common with Last Tango in Paris or Blow-Up than it does to D.O.A or The Maltese Falcon. Klute is more about the experience than the story. Michael Small’s score is ethereal. “Phone Call Play Back”; Small’s haunting theme lures the audience into the film with the sounds of a disembodied female voice singing to us like a siren, calling us into this deadly world. A tape-recorded conversation between Bree Daniels and an unknown client is repeatedly played. Like a stalker, the audience is complacent in hearing a private conversation during an intimate time.
We do not get to know Klute, as we do Bree. Bree is old enough to be cynical and stems from her inability to live out her dream as an actress. Of course, what she fails to notice is that she is already a great actress. From the moment her client opens the door she must slip into his fantasy. Bree has to become the woman that her client wants her to be. She knows how to manipulate men to get what she wants. In their inchoate relationship, Bree manipulates the stoic Klute in sleeping with her to gain the upper hand in the relationship.
If you are looking for a good mystery, you should look somewhere else. If you allow yourself to go with the flow, than the enjoyment of Klute is limitless. Klute has all the hallmarks of a film-noir, a mystery, a private eye, sex, etc. But it uses the atmosphere of film-noir to create not only a cerebral experience, but a feast for the senses. Many films forget that a film is more than dialogue—it is about sight and sound. Klute uses music, visuals, and compelling characters to create a self-aware film-noir only to be made into a better film by Francis Ford Coppla’s The Conversation or Brian De Palma’s Blow-Out.