Klein Tribute Concludes With 2 Fashion Statements

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The UCLA Film Archive's "Cinema Outsider: The Films of William Klein" concludes Thursday in Melnitz Theater at 7:30 p.m. with two features: "Who Are You, Polly Magoo?" (1965-66) and "Mode in France" (1985), plus Klein's section from "Far From Vietnam" (1967) and a graceful half-hour study of athletic movement, "Slow Motion" (1984).

Stanley Kubrick reportedly told Klein, an American expatriate in France, that "Who Are You, Polly Magoo?" was a decade ahead of its time, but it's a shame it wasn't released in America when it was made. A satire set in the world of fashion, it has a spontaneity and a brilliant imaginativeness that would have appealed to audiences responding to Godard in the '60s.

It is still original and distinctive, but its targets--the excesses of fashion and the media--are not quite as fresh as they were two decades ago. Polly Magoo (Dorothy Macgowan) is a Brooklyn-born model who becomes the rage of Paris couture. She's a nice, unpretentious, not overly bright young woman whose popularity makes her a natural subject for a TV inquiry series, "Who Are You?," the brainchild of two aggressive media types played by Jean Rochefort and Philippe Noiret. As they hype Polly's story--Polly hasn't much to say about herself--she in turn is pursued by a Ruritanian prince (Sami Frey). Although eminently enjoyable and ever inventive, "Who Are You, Polly Magoo?" seems disconnected and lacks drive. Klein sends up the absurdities of high fashion and royalty in all its pomp without ever acknowledging the public's hunger for glamour and romance.

"Mode in France" is another matter. Superficially, it attempts a definition of all the facets of fashion--e.g., fashion as obsession, fashion as cinema, etc.--assigning a top designer to illustrate each facet. As such it's all surface until Klein interviews the film's gorgeous models, each emerging as an engaging, reflective individual. This sequence is a dazzling exercise in charisma, yet it is topped by a sequence in which none other than Grace Jones ostensibly coaches the equally spectacular Linda Spierning on the art of modeling, an exercise that becomes enormously erotic. No other film has captured the wit, humor and personality of Jones as this film has.

UCLA is also offering in Melnitz Theater, on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., "Young Italian Film Directors," a double feature composed of Daniele Lucchetti's "It's Happening Tomorrow" (1987) and Carlo Mazzacurati's "Italian Night" (1987). Neither is distinctive enough to warrant U.S. distribution, but they're respectable minor entertainments. The first is a picaresque adventure, set against the tumultuous era leading up to the formation of the Italian state, and involving two hapless cowherds (Paolo Hendei, Giovanni Guidelli) in banditry. Mildly diverting, it assumes familiarity with its historical background. The second is altogether more involving, centering on a lawyer (stocky, unglamorous and down-to-earth Marco Messeri) who goes to the River Po delta to appraise some land to be expropriated for a national park and discovers widespread corruption. The result is a complicated, poignant film noir set against stark locales.

Information: (213) 206-8013, 206-FILM.

"Sexbomb," which screens Wednesday night only at the Nuart, tries to spoof Grade Z film making and the femme fatale "Body Heat"/"Double Indemnity" plot. The trouble is that "Sexbomb" is very nearly Grade Z itself.

Even though director Jeff Broadstreet and writer Robert Benson proceed swiftly from the merely inept to the outright tedious, there are two professional performances and some funny gags. Robert Quarry, memorable as that witty vampire, Count Yorga, is great fun as the schlockiest of Hollywood schlockmeisters, and Linnea--she has now dropped her last name, Quigley--the pretty veteran of countless forgettable exploitation pictures, plays the likable star of Quarry's latest opus, "I Rip Your Flesh (With Pliers)." "Sexbomb" is otherwise amateurish. Information: (213) 478-6377, 479-5269.

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