WHO ARE YOU POLLY MAGGOO? [Qui Etes-Vous Polly Maggoo?] (1966).
Director William Klein will always be a hero of mine, after his incredible anti-US superhero satire, MR. FREEDOM. So, of course, this equally impressive, earlier effort was on my Must-Dredge-Up List. Visually brilliant and subversive as hell, this is French New Wave wackiness with a sledgehammer aftertaste. The feature debut from US expatriate Klein, it's a natural extension of his fashion photographer roots, and in today's era of super-model madness, POLLY is a glorious fart into the face of this media idiocy. Klein deposits us into the world of French high fashion at its most absurd, beginning with a runway show inside a screwed-up, FLINTSTONES-like cave-creation. The models all wear aluminum sheets, bent and bolted to their bodies, while the snooty audience proclaims it "magnifique." Who cares if the models are actually getting sliced up by the sharp edges of their "clothes"? With reality sticking close to Klein's fiction, real-life model Dorothy McGowan stars as movie-model Polly Maggoo -- a woman so alluring that strangers accost her on the street, asking her to be their fiancee, or run in front of speeding cars (thud!) in order to follow her. It's Maggoo-mania, with Jean Rochefort playing a TV journalist covering Polly's unprecedented fame with a vapid profile (which has the same title as this movie). And in one of the strangest subplots (which is saying a lot), Sami Frey plays a Prince (Charming?) who longs for Polly's affections, amidst his world of toys and magic props and fab furnishings -- and asks her to visit his chilly country. And yes, that's future-DARK SHADOWS cast member Grayson Hall as the lemming-like fashion publisher. The satire comes hard and heavy, yet it's all so stylishly delivered that it becomes contagious. Klein has a dazzling sense of composition -- rigidly combining sets, costumes and b&w camerawork into an altogether unique look, which often feels like Kubrick on mushrooms. Sprinkled with several extremely-photogenic fashion shoots, I particularly loved his offbeat digressions, such a fantasy episode which has Polly as a far-too-sexy Shirley Temple, singing "Animal Crackers in My Soup." At the heart of the film, MacGowan proves herself a personable type, who isn't afraid to look ridiculous. Ultimately, she makes today's breed of Ubermodel look like freakish frauds, while bringing a rare breath of humanity to her role (despite her occupation). In the end, POLLY MAGGOO remains a tumultuous time capsule of an extravagant era, captured at its most deliriously excessive. Outstanding!
© 1998 by Steven Puchalski.