Directed by Alan J. Pakula
Cinematography by Gordon Willis
I finally had some time to participate in The Film Experience’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot series this week, and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to pick out images from one of my favorite movies of the 1970s, Klute, the first of Alan J. Pakula’s paranoia thrillers. My appreciation for the film grows each time I revisit it, and I was fortunate enough to see it on 35mm at the Academy Museum a couple of months ago and really take in Gordon Willis’s superb cinematography on such a big screen, along with the brilliance of Jane Fonda in her first Oscar-winning performance.
I’ve mentioned multiple times before how much I love good silhouette shots, and this film has a number of them aside from the few I selected here. What struck me about the use of silhouettes in Klute though was that they’re not always as high in contrast as you’d typically see, exemplifying Willis’s trademark lighting technique of surrounding characters in darkness.
Another prime example of Willis’s penchant for shadows, here Bree Daniels (Jane Fonda) is almost completely hidden from view, with the light just illuminating part of the right side of her face as she realizes she’s not alone, and soon realizes who’s been following her and sending her threatening messages.
What I love about this shot is how it’s another silhouette but it’s on the reflection of a window, wherein we see John Klute (Donald Sutherland) watch the man he’s been tracking down walk away. It’s a rather ominous image, with the vertical lines from the window making it look as though Klute is trapped with the next steps to take on this case; while he’s certain that the man he’s been reporting his investigation to is also the man he’s been looking for, he doesn’t know of the impending danger of letting him go then and there, putting Bree in harm’s way.
Be sure to check out what others have chosen as their best shot from Klute here!