Qui Êtes-Vous, Polly Maggoo?, William Klein&Dorothy McGowan

3 Mar
Polly Maggoo
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Recently my friend Eddy (De Clercq) told me of this movie, Qui Êtes-Vous, Polly Maggoo? after we watched the documentary about Diana Vreeland, in which some gorgeous pictures from the film were shown. I got pretty curious and wanted to know more about this obscure movie about the fashion world in the 60ties.

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The film is a satire of the French mid-1960’s fashion world, in which William Klein, writer and director of the movie, unapologetically skewers the fashion industry. William Klein, an expat American in Paris and former fashion photographer for Vogue during the Diana Vreeland era. His explosive New York street photography made him one of the most heralded artists of the sixties. He was ranked 25th on UK’s Professional Photographer’s ‘100 Most Influential Photographers of all time’: ‘The anarchic rebel of fashion, reportage and film making. His wide-angle ‘in your face approach’ lives on, as does his attitude.’

William Klein
William-Klein-Bikini-Moscow-1959-e1332891524238
William Klein_
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In 1954, Alexander Liberman, then art director of Vogue hired William Klein, launching his career as a fashion photographer, “a journey marked by his ambivalent and ironic approach to the world of fashion. Klein worked for Vogue till 1965. ” Klein did not want to continue with mundane fashion poses, but wanted to take, in his own words “at last real pictures, eliminating taboos and clichés.”

William Klein
William Klein
William Klein
William Klein
William Klein
William Klein
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William Klein’s move into the cinema world was a natural progression in his artistic career. He only made three fiction features. His debut, Qui Êtes-Vous, Polly Maggoo? (1966) with, in the leading role as Polly Maggoo, Dorothy McGowan.

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Polly Maggoo, the movie

Fairly loosely plotted, the film uses a fictional documentary TV news program called “Who Are You?” to take a close look at Polly Maggoo, the world’s most popular supermodel and in the process, ruminate (often satirically) on fashion, fame, and wealth.

polly Maggoo
Polly Maggoo
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It’s an art film through and through, and in the truest sense of the word. It’s extremely edgy, surrealistic, and critical of the fashion world, which exploded into a new shape during the 60s (haute couture really getting “out there” – no longer about wearable clothing but about making ‘art’ on the human form).

Polly Maggoo
Polly Maggoo
Polly Maggoo

Polly Maggoo                                                                                 .

The movie starts with an absurd runway show in which the models are wearing aluminum sheets as clothes. When one of the models cuts herself at the aluminum, the designer says :”no problem, we can fix it with some foundation”, instead of caring about the pain and cuts in her arm. When the show is finished Miss Maxwell, the most famous fashion editor, who is obviously based on Diana Vreeland,  proclaims the designer has ‘recreated the woman’. Then fashion crowd goes backstage and give all ridiculous (but very funny) comments about the show and the creations and the designer pronounces: “I have great plans, I am going to do the whole collection in copper too'”.

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Admittedly, this won’t be for everyone, as it is rather strange (sometimes too psychedelic for me). It’s delightfully absurd and extremely stylish, crammed with awesome pop art costumes, makeup, sets, and more. It’s worth watching for the visuals alone, but it also has quite a bit of intellectual weight and interesting ideas well-presented.
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Dorothy McGowan played the role of Polly Maggoo

Dorothy McGowan

Dorothy McGowan

Dorothy McGowan

Dorothy McGowan

Dorothy McGowan

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Interview with Dorothy McGowan by Vanessa Lawrence of WWD (Women’s Wear Daily):
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Models aren’t generally the most loquacious bunch. In fact, talking seems to be generally discouraged among their numbers: they are meant to be visual entities, whose mystique is only heightened by the lack of verbal insight they give. As such, it is usually assumed they don’t have very much to say.

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Fortunately, Sixties mannequin Dorothy A. McGowan was perfectly at ease last Friday evening when the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Harold Koda and historian Kohle Yohannan chatted with her before a screening of William Klein’s “Qui Êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo?” in which she stars.

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The Brooklyn-born McGowan, child of Irish immigrants, was discovered at Kennedy Airport and joined the Ford agency’s roster in 1959. She went on to work with Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Melvin Sokolsky; nab four Vogue covers back-to-back, and most famously, become one of Klein’s favorites and the star of his 1966 French film.

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It was all a rather bemusing trip for the young Bay Ridge native, who claimed, “I had no ambition for the future.”

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“What happened that made you see [modeling] as a career opportunity?” asked Koda.

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“Everyone would say to me, ‘You should be a model.’ I wasn’t stylish. I was long and lanky and had a baby face,” explained McGowan, between sips of water. “I saw this ad that said ‘Wanted: model trainee.’ And so I went to this place and this man asked me to come back the next day…it was a model agency on East 40th Street. When I was leaving his office, somebody said, ‘Who was that girl?’ and he said, ‘Oh, she’s not interesting; she’s too skinny.'”

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“Last time that was ever said in fashion,” said Yohannon to much laughter.

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In the satirical film, McGowan plays Brooklyn-born supermodel Polly Maggoo working in Paris. She becomes the subject of a French TV documentary series “Qui Êtes-vous?” and is simultaneously courted by both the filmmaker and a Soviet prince, all to her bewilderment.

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“I met William Klein in 1960 in the offices of French Vogue. I was working with Penn and I guess he saw some of my pictures…and he asked me if I would do some pictures [with him],” said McGowan, who stopped modeling in 1974 and has since earned both a bachelor and graduate degree in the arts.

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And despite Klein’s infamously intimidating reputation, McGowan was a willing foil.

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“People were terrified of Klein as though it was a lion’s den; I was never more at home.”

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William Klein

William Klein

The World Photography Organisation has announced that legendary photographer William Klein received the Outstanding Contribution to Photography Award at the 2012 Sony World Photography Awards.

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Watch the following documentary about William Klein

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The Delerious Fictions of William Klein

dvd box with the three movies William Klein directed: ‘Who Are You, Polly Maggoo’, Mr. Freedom’ and ‘The Model Couple”.

DVD box William Klein

http://www.amazon.com/Eclipse-Series-Delirious-Criterion-Collection/dp/B0011U3OB0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1361893312&sr=8-1&keywords=polly+maggoo

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One Response to “Qui Êtes-Vous, Polly Maggoo?, William Klein&Dorothy McGowan”

  1. Karen Kristopher-Schwartz 9 January 2015 at 07:38 #

    I love this discovery …. !

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