American Gigolo (1980) 4.43/5 (1)


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Rating: The Good – 69.8
Genre: Thriller
Duration: 117 mins
Director: Paul Schrader
Stars: Richard Gere, Lauren Hutton, Hector Elizondo

Richard Gere plays a high class gigolo, Julian, who spends his days and nights escorting rich women around Beverly Hills until he becomes involved in a murder case and his clients begin to evade him. A film very much of its time, American Gigolo is Paul Schrader’s most visually accomplished directorial project. The set design, lighting, staging, and exterior locations all combine expertly to capture the comfort and skill with which Julian navigates the vivid world of 80′s Los Angeles. There are strong noir influences observable in both the lighting, plot, and dialogue as Schrader draws some inconspicuous (“all I can see is the frame”) and interesting parallels between the shadowy world of the 1940’s detective stories and the neon saturated counter culture Julian inhabits. On top of that, there’s a palpable sense of time and place as if this movie was made looking back at the 80’s retrospectively and as if Schrader was already perceiving the glossy vacuousness which was permeating the emerging Los Angeles of the time. This makes the film simultaneously nostalgic and prophetic and it gives Schrader’s central focus all the more thrust.

In the build-up, this sense of pervading vacuousness carries over into the story and makes the early scenes come across as somewhat insubstantial. Fortunately, however, much of this is offset by Gere’s curiously compelling performance. He’s both likeable and dislikeable and with reasonable subtlety gives us glimpses of Julian’s growing disenchantment with his lifestyle even though he still clearly enjoys the money and gifts that come with it. Lauren Hutton provides able support as the one client Julian seems to have genuine feelings for and the two work of each other well. American Gigolo is a unique film both visually and conceptually and despite a tendency to lose its way from time to time, it’s an intriguing piece of American cinema.

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