Qui Ítes-vous, Polly Maggoo? (Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?) (1966)
Qui Ítes-vous, Polly Maggoo? (Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?) (1966)
Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.
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Critic Reviews for Qui Ítes-vous, Polly Maggoo? (Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?)
An overload of charming and zany lightweight sight gags that are more silly than funny in their ripping of both French and American cultures.
Audience Reviews for Qui Ítes-vous, Polly Maggoo? (Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?)
Delightfully eccentric if dead cynical, "Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?" does for fashion models what Peter Watkins' "Privilege" did for rock stars two years later. Despite its sour subtext, this William Klein satire is quite accessible and seems strangely forgotten. Perhaps audiences were confused about whether the film truly belonged in the "foreign" bin. Given that both the writer-director and star were American, should the story have been set in New York instead of Paris?
Dorothy MacGowan -- a real-life fashion queen who abruptly quit show business after this battering role -- plays Polly, a vulnerable supermodel. MacGowan has an interesting, unconventional look. She's covered with light freckles and has a mild case of buckteeth, but is stunning all the same. Her mascara is ridiculously thick, but of course this was the 1960's. She doesn't have much of a personality, and comes off like a blank slate who has thoughts draped on her just as easily as dresses.
This pop-culture portrait is light on plot, but the main threads find Polly pursued by two lovestruck men: a foreign prince (Sami Frey) who aims to marry her and a TV host (Jean Rochefort) who's shooting a pseudo-insightful documentary with the same title as the film. But these erratic courtships are secondary to episodic glimpses of Polly's chaotic, stressful lifestyle.
What's most endearing about "Polly Maggoo" is that Klein's filmmaking becomes wilder and wilder as the movie continues. The first half-hour is relatively straightforward (the highlight is a fashion show with bulky aluminum outfits that look like deconstructed Chinese-takeout cartons), but then the craziness starts. The jump cuts and surreal insertions begin piling up, and there's even cut-out animation and superimposed graphics. The radical editing and emphasis on interviews and cameras betray an obvious Godard influence, but Klein's version is free of his inspiration's frosty intellectualism.
"Polly Maggoo" seems tailor-made for MacGowan, and not just because "Maggoo" is a twist on her own name. The flashed magazine covers are presumably from her past modeling jobs, and there's a still of her screaming for the Beatles that apparently was responsible for her being "discovered." She's a charismatic presence and a decent actress, and she speaks French well besides. Too bad she bowed out of the game so early.
Is there anything below the surface of this film? It's slow, it's choppy and the only thing I really liked about it was the closing credits song
William Klein is an interesting director to me. I have one more to watch before I can make my initial judgements on the man, so here's to hoping I can air out some of those cobwebs that I still haven't gotten around to.
This is a fantastically shot movie. I was sitting there watching the beginning of this movie and thinking, "Damn, Jeff would love this." It's true. William Klein's background as a fashion photographer really plays a huge part in how this movie is shot that makes it somewhat unique. I understand that he is critical of the entire fashion industry and how the media views celebrities, but the reason that idea is so successful in this film is because he actually shoots them the way they'd be shot in real life. That's effective as all get out. I imagine if this film was made by someone who didn't have a background in fashion photography, there would be these over-the-top moments of trying to make it look and ireally it would come off as cheap and rushed. I'll stand by the direction on this one, at least when it comes to the visual aesthetic.
The big problem with the movie is the ADD, bizarre-nature of the shooting. I know that it isn't vital to constantly know what is going on in a movie like this, but there are tons of questions that require me to know "did that really happen" from time to time. The basic story is somewhat intriguing. This very popular American model living in France has an episode of something like Biography made about her. She gives very friendly, very fun answers, but everyone at the studio thinks she's an idiot despite her intentions. It's a portrayal of how the media tears people apart and wants pre-scripted answers that sell television. Meanwhile, poor Polly is subjected to cruelty by the man who loves her just to get better answers. That part of the story I love and get and I'm actually sure could have been very effective if explored perhaps a little more traditionally. The big problem for me is the addition of Prince Ivan, who is madly in love with her. There are these two characters from Ivan's fictional country trying to get Polly to marry Ivan, but we don't know if she ever really does because it shows her there, but then cuts back to the main story. I understand that Klein is trying to get "obsession" with the media's idea of perfect, but why so much attention placed on her returning to the country. We don't know if that actually happens. Is it saying that Polly is so superficial that she will only marry for money? While she makes comments like that from time to time, it seems very out of character compared to all the other things that happen in her life. We see characters on the street obsessing about her. The producer of the television show obsesses. I wouldn't even mind the Ivan story if he just stayed in his own country and obsessed about her.
Polly is extremely well cast. She is a gorgeous American who speaks near perfect French and you can understand why men obsesses over her. She's distant but relatable, which I think is extremely hard to play. But I honestly think she pulls it off. But the big problem doesn't come from Polly. It comes from the trainwreck that is most of the movie. It's a shame, because visually, this movie is a knockout, but just lacks any cohesion to make heads or tails of the entire subject matter. I'll be having more negative things to say about William Klein when I review Mr. Freedom.
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