Amy Taubin at Artforum:
EVEN IF YOU’VE SEEN WILLIAM KLEIN’S Muhammad Ali, The Greatest (1974) online or in a museum or festival, those are no substitutes for seeing it right now in a theater with an audience, just like you’ve seen Black Panther (2018). Take your kids, or any kids you know, to see a real-world hero. Muhammad Ali is one of the best films in “The Eyes of William Klein,” a retrospective at Quad Cinema of narrative and documentary features and shorts by the ninety-year-old photographer and filmmaker.
In a documentary made for the BBC (not part of this series) to coincide with the filmmaker’s 2012 retrospective at the Tate Modern, someone tells the story of how Klein got what in Muhammad Ali seemed to be almost unlimited access to the boxer in 1964–65, when he won the heavyweight championship against Sonny Liston in Louisville, Kentucky and then beat him at their rematch in Maine. Klein was flying to Miami, hoping to get a chance to shoot Ali during training, and took the only empty seat on the plane, which turned out to be next to Malcolm X. Somehow by the end of the flight the New York–born photographer of Hungarian-Jewish descent, best known for his Vogue fashion shoots as well as the street photography published in his book Life is Good & Good for You in New York: Trance Witness Revels (1956), had managed to convince Malcolm to recommend him to Ali.