Who Are You Polly Maggoo?

  • 1966
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Comedy

Former fashion photographer William Klein made his filmmaking debut with this unjustly obscure exercise in surreal satire, which won the 1967 Prix Jean Vigo and been called the epitome of '60s pop filmmaking by Pedro Almodovar. French television journalist Jean-Jacques (Jean Rochfort) and his producer, Gregoire (Philippe Noiret), decide to devote an...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Former fashion photographer William Klein made his filmmaking debut with this unjustly obscure exercise in surreal satire, which won the 1967 Prix Jean Vigo and been called the epitome of '60s pop filmmaking by Pedro Almodovar.

French television journalist Jean-Jacques (Jean Rochfort) and his producer, Gregoire (Philippe Noiret), decide to devote an episode of the documentary series "Qui Etes Vous…" to 20-year-old American model Polly Maggoo (Dorothea McGowan, at the height of her real-life modeling career), who has taken the Paris fashion world by storm. Her angular face graces posters and magazine covers, strangers propose marriage and her cultural significance is examined in the book "Polly Magoo par Polly Magoo". Formidable editor Miss Maxwell (Grayson Hall, of TV's Dark Shadows) -- think Klein's old Vogue boss, Diana Vreeland -- has anointed Polly the "it" girl of the moment, and her kicky image enthralls of media-mad Prince Igor Borodine (Samy Frey), the regent of some unspecified Eastern-European backwater. As Polly obligingly plays to the cameras -- Klein nails the supermodel playbook, from Polly's down-to-Earth confession that she grew up the skinny, bucktoothed daughter of a Brooklyn cop to her introspective lament that "every photo eats away a tiny piece of me" -- Gregoire pushes Jean-Jacques to get behind the mask of "the courtesan for your-eyes-only, the flash-bulb Venus, the cover girl." Snapshots of the adolescent Polly in a crowd of swooning Beatles fans and her embarrassing TV ad for energy-boosting Yankee Doodle Crackers (they're dandy) are fine, but "Qui etes-vous, Polly Magoo" must expose the calculated cruelty of style makers who once catered to the hypocritical refinement of old wealth and now seduce teenagers with the false promise of Cinderella tales like Polly's.

American-born, French-based Klein isn't subtle in his lambasting of the superficial world of media-made celebrity. But the film is a vivid time capsule crammed with ravishing B&W images that range from on-the-fly Paris street scenes to the kind of glossily artificial spectacles he shot for fashion magazines, like the avant-garde runway show featuring models in sheet metal dresses and the "Death of Fashion" shoot. Klein demonstrates a real understanding of the way moving pictures work, witness the lengthy tracking shot from a few steps ahead of Jean-Jacques and Gregoire as they walk briskly through the corridors of OK-TV's offices. And their dialogue, which bemoans the corporate rapacity that panders to the "moronic millions," cuts personnel while increasing production and keeps staffers in line by fostering "a willfully induced climate of fear and insecurity," could have been written in 2006 rather than 40 years earlier.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Former fashion photographer William Klein made his filmmaking debut with this unjustly obscure exercise in surreal satire, which won the 1967 Prix Jean Vigo and been called the epitome of '60s pop filmmaking by Pedro Almodovar. French television journ… (more)

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