William Klein's Messiah

(Le Messie)
France 1999. Dir: William Klein. 117 min. DCP

“Anybody who pretends to be objective isn’t realistic.”

Although best known in the last century for his rule-breaking street photography — he’s been called “the poet of the epoch of McCarthy and the Bomb” (Max Kozloff) — William Klein became a prophet of the 21st century through his filmmaking. Klein’s iconoclastic fiction films and expressionist documentaries transported “the apocalyptic dreams and demagogic humours of the 1950s into the [mediascape] of the three subsequent decades” (Jonathan Rosenbaum). Who was better, then, to usher in the millennium? Juxtaposing Handel’s Messiah with the everyday lives of people around the globe who sing it, Klein’s last film, first released in December 1999, is a state-of-the-world documentary for the new century, a message in a bottle that has at last reached our shore.

Images © William Klein