Mr. Klein

Cecile Pineda
7 min readDec 23, 2019

Looking to the past as today’s guide helps people understand and recognize the present under its camouflage, for what it really is. An example in point is Joseph Losey’s Mr. Klein, which he shot in France in 1976.

Prompted by a review in the September 9, 2019 New Yorker, I made sure to attend what turned out to be its last screening at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley. (It screened earlier in New York).

Briefly the plot outline features an indifferent, ultra manicured Alain Delon who plays an art dealer happy to take advantage of anyone selling artwork, especially those Jews, fleeing 1942 German-occupied France, fearing for their lives. The arrogance with which he’s shown throwing 300 Louis d’ors at his Jewish client feels like a slap in the audience’s face.

But disaster awaits Klein when a Jewish newspaper is slipped under his door. He discovers that, if he wants to cancel his subscription, he will need to go to the collaborationist Prefecture de Police. And so doing, he becomes the author of his own destruction: a “person of interest.” His wheelchair bound father (played by a stellar Louis Seigner) assures him “We’ve been French and Catholic since Louis the XVI!” but Klein’s true roots remain remain amorphous. He discovers that Paris holds another Robert Klein, this one probably a member of the French Resistance. His discovery is the seed of a new obsession. To rid himself of his shadow he must discover the true identity of the other Robert Klein.

Here the film takes a decidedly noirish turn, a signature of Losey’s story telling art, but in my view, it is quiet enough to observe routine arrests of Jews as the unaffected population of Paris carries on its daily rounds of cafes, race courses, promenades, the opera, and so forth while in the background we see scenes where arrests, and round ups are plotted by men in suits on a wall-sized enlargement of the city, and the Gestapo’s sinister Citroens and antiquated buses go about their deadly work.

Trapped in the Vel D’Hiver

But it is the scene of their final destination where Klein is trapped alongside the original Jewish client he treated with such contempt that speaks loudest: the “Vel d’Hiver. Throughout my years-long friendships with Parisian Holocaust survivors, the Vel d’Hiver (Winter Velodrome) features prominently in their stories of survival, but I had yet to see the actual scene: rivers of humanity herded behind bars, children separated from their mothers. The Right! Left! of the Final Solution.

Never known for anything other than its temporizing and camouflaging views, for once the New Yorker does not disappoint. Writes reviewer, Anthony Lane: “How blessed we are to live in a decent and democratic age where such things could not possibly occur.”

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Foreign

Iraq protesters form ‘mini=state’ in Tahrir Square.

100 doctors demand Julian Assange receive safe passage to Australian hospital ‘Before it’s too late.’

Lawyer holds in court Assange cannot be extradited to U.S. because extradition treaty bars extradition for political offenses.

Finland general strike saves postal service.

George Galloway launches workers party of Britain.

France records 391-mile traffic jam as public transport brought to halt by third week of strikes over pension changes.

ICC prosecutor says Israel committing war crimes (duh) and opens investigation.

‘Gas war’ averted as Russia and Ukraine agree to crucial transit deal.

Domestic

California DOJ cuts off ICE deportation officers from state law enforcement database.

Acting Department of Defense Inspector General Glenn Fine announces that his office will investigate the president’s use of troops at the Southern border.

Washington state attorney general sues Trump administration over courthouse immigration sweeps.

In win for native rights, Hawaii governor order cops at Mauna Kea to stand down.

New Jersey state legislature votes to grant all immigrants licenses.

Deportation relief extended for teen with cystic fibrosis.

Supreme Court leaves ruling barring prosecution of homeless in place.

Federal court uphold abortion access.

New Jersey restores voting rights of people on parole and probation.

Media taking notice as Sanders surges in new polls.

Moms reclaim vacant home amid national attacks on Homeless.

Atlanta moms show up when cops arrest mother of son with Down Syndrome.

Center for Constitutional Rights urges court to change ground rules for Guantánamo cases.

House spending package includes clear intent to keep fossil fuels out of clean energy program.

House approves first increase to public media in more than ten years.

Most Americans believe basic human rights under siege.

House Democrat from red district explains who she’s voting to impeach even if it ends her career.

Judge reverses vote in controversial first amendment case.

Anti-robocall bill passes.

Rep. Jeff Drew plans to make it official that he’s a Republican; staffers resign en masse.

After gaining full control of Virginia government, Democrats unveil bills to expand voting rights.

Goldman Sachs rules out funding for new coal projects, arctic oil drilling, making explicit mention of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

New ag bill includes first-ever national factory farm moratorium.

New lawsuit challenges Trump failure to update slaughterhouse pollution guidelines.

California gives state protection to foothill yellow-legged frogs.

Diane Wilson wins $50 million lawsuit against cancer alley polluter Formosa, setting major legal precedent.

Nestlé’s go at privatizing town water shot down by Michigan appeals court.

Eastbayhills wins court victory against pesticide sprayers.

Rainy day victory: homeless man shatters window to go to jail to escape the cold.

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