Who are You, Polly Maggoo?

France 1966. Dir William Klein.

Who are You, Polly Maggoo?, the 1967 winner of the French Prix Jean Vigo, remains a quintessential film by one of the wittiest and most versatile veteran artists and fashion image-makers. A team of TV reporters chronicles the life of the dolly-faced fashion mannequin Polly (Dorothy McGowan) at a climax of her career. In an obsessive quest for Polly’s elusive identity, the filmmakers try to get “under her make-up.” Following Polly’s own musings on who she is, they end up in a frustrated debate about fashion, surface and existence. Particularly inspired are Klein’s outlandish fashion scenes and his understated commentaries on film and filmmaking, best exemplified in a sequence showing media’s manipulation of “raw material” through cunning editing. Highly stylised, sarcastic, hilarious and heart-achingly sharp, Klein’s first full-length feature film offers no moral maxims. In a method truly worthy of fashion, it merely lays the surface out for the viewers to figure out.