Charles S. Tashiro | Agoura Hills, CA USA | 06/05/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"American Gigolo is probably writer-director Paul Schrader's most memorable film. Richard Gere is perhaps too well cast as a strutting, smug hustler brought low by his egotism and blindness to the reality of his life. The love story "redemption" centering around Lauren Hutton is pure front-office placation. The real subject of the film is exactly the sexy surfaces the story somewhat hypocritically pretends (but not too strongly) to condemn. In fact, the film's most memorable sequences are both dedicated to hard-edged commodity glitter and have nothing to do with the love story. In the opening credits, Gere shops on Rodeo Drive then drives down Pacific Coast Highway. Deborah Harry loudly sings out to "Call Me" in the background, Gere smirks in the sunny breezes behind the wheel of his 450SL, while the camera lovingly caresses the bumpers and hub caps. In the famous dressing scene, Gere throws one exquisite jacket, shirt and tie after another on to his bed as he ponders the most effective combination. Both scenes are wonderful evocations of svelte narcissism, cheeky self-satisfaction made into an art.To achieve these surfaces, Schrader owes a deep debt to cinematographer John Bailey, fashion designer Giorgio Armani and especially "visual consultant" (production designer) Ferdinando Scarfiotti, who is probably chiefly responsible for the film's famous "European" look. It also doesn't hurt that the story is almost exclusively limited to the sleeker parts of LA and Southern California-Beverly Hills, Westwood, Malibu, a side trip to Palm Springs, with a touch of Hollywood grunge thrown in for some kicks and kink. It all adds up to a creamy, pastel-tinged vision of LA as a show-biz Riviera, where class and style don't come from centuries of breeding, but can be purchased for the price of a designer shirt.It is not too much of an exaggeration to suggest that the unsympathetic, vacant characters and ludicrous plotting are there to wear the clothes. Intentionally or otherwise, that hits at a truth about LA that makes the film stay in the memory (particularly since life in the city has changed little since it was made). It's not just the combination of the sleazy and the silky, the cooled-out camerawork gazing alternately at rot and luxury, but the film's realization that in LA, "How much?" is not just the beginning of a financial transaction, but the only question of value people understand."
Emotionless film effectively shows pitfalls of materialsim
Get What We Give | Georgia | 01/13/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"American Gigolo is one of my favorite films and yet it is really not one of the greatest films that you might encounter. Shot in rich tones, particularly blues and greys, the director, Paul Schrader, wants us to know that we are not going to be afforded the opportunity to get to know the characters too well. One might be able to argue that American Gigolo was one of the films that literally catapulted the movie going public into the 1980's mindset of materialism. Richard Gere in one of his earliest films, protrays straight male call boy, Julian, who is tops in his game. Julian is gorgeous and knows many gorgeous women. He sleeps with those who will pay him. He doesn't bother with those who won't. Julian's lifestyle is one of everything "is a means to an end". He is interested in beautiful clothing and looking good, but because it helps him get something that he wants. He enjoys artwork and stylish digs, but not because he loves them, but because they are status symbols for his success. Julian enjoys being a gigolo because he is the best there is. He wouldn't (and doesn't) enjoy it when it isn't on his terms. For someone like me who feels he is too in tune with his emotions, Gere's Julian is cool, calculating and enviable. He goes about life without a care for anyone but himself. When Julian meets Lauren Hutton, he is actually smitten with her. This is evidenced by the meeting taking place in a bar with deep reds and comfortable upholstered booths instead of the abounding greys, blues, and steel evidenced elsewhere in the film. When Julian finally becomes intimate with Hutton and allows his emotional wall down for a moment, Schrader pulls us in close, but just afterward he lets us see that Julian can't maintain such intimacy and the camera pulls back for a long shot of him as he gets out of the bed leaving Lauren Hutton alone in the bed. The story is secondary to the style of the film. It is a thriller, but not an exciting one. The music of Georgio Moroder and Blondie complement the film and give it even more atmosphere. It needs it because the films two false endings drag this picture out longer than needed in trying to show us how emotional involvement can change someone. The message should be left that a lack of emotion can be dangerous.
I rewatch this film every so often. It's a guilty pleasure watching the opening of the film with Julian driving down the PCH in his 450SL. Or when he's laying out different Armani outfits determining which to put on. Or looking at paintings, never deciding where he will hang them.
Matthew Horner | 12/16/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Yet another harshly criticized film from Paul Schrader. Its themes of emotional emptiness trying to be filled with sex, money, and general material wealth, pretty much, summed up the decade that followed its release. It is the quintissential 80's movie.Schrader was unjustly maligned by critics for the films pacing and flat acting from the films leads. The acting is shallow because the film is about empty people- Julien(Gere) turns on the charm in order to satisfy his ego, and not, as he says, to satisfy women. One gets the feeling, in the long takes when Julien is driving around in his Mercedes, that the smile on his face is because he likes being seen (it is a convertible, after all)and not because of some inner well being. The same can also be said for the pimps in the movie. Both of them behave as if Julien is the slickest, greatest guy alive and smother him with compliments, until, that is, he refuses to do them a favor. Once they dont get what they want, they quickly turn on him. One could even say that the ending echos this. Romantics would like to believe that Julien is redeemed by love, however, he, most likely, stays with the Senators wife because she is the only person who hasnt abandoned him. In his world, she is the only source left to fill his ego and provide him with his much needed alibi, and thats the only reason he doesnt reject her.My only complaints- I feel that the time lapse device in the films conclusion doesnt work. It seems sudden and awkward compared to the rest of the films pacing, like the story has to tidy itself up to reach its end at the expense of the narrative. I felt that the film could have benifited from more scenes with Julien interacting with his clients. I guess Shrader and the studio wanted to gloss over the gigilo view and not have Gere in intimate scenes with ancient ladies. Instead we see him merely holding hands with them and getting intimate (two scenes) with only attractive and younger women. It feels like a pulled punch. Even though it would have made Julien less admirable to an audience, seeing him being intimate with withered and wrinkled widows would have felt true to the character and led to a better understanding of him. But, thats not the sort of thing Hollywood wants thier male leads doing. Over time, Schrader is one of those directors whose harsher critics will be laughed at. I dont know of many other directors who get lashed for being "too Foriegn" in thier composition and pace. Without a doubt, he does get much of his style from French and Japanese directors, but only because his eye finds a kinship with them. His is not camerawork that feels in any way forced, like he is borrowing from someone else. Schrader always gets harped on, whereas, Scorsese, Coppola, Allen, and Jarmusch are heralded for borrowing from overseas. So, if you are going to brutally judge Schrader by his influences, then throw out Sam Raimi for looking too much like Leone and Hitchcock, Paul T. Anderson for looking like Scorsese, and you sure as Hell better sting up Spielberg, run him out of town, and bury him in the desert (oh, please do) because two-thirds of his vision is nothing more than a pale Kurosawa impersonation.Hardcore, American Gigilo, Cat People, Comfort of Strangers, and Affliction are really great films that havent gotten the praise that they deserve, and Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters is nothing less than a perfect film, an absolute masterpiece. Thank you Mr. Schrader."
Darkly comic thriller from Paul Schrader
Matthew Horner | USA | 09/09/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
""American Gigolo" is high on my list of Guilty Pleasures. This 1980 thriller wallows in the troubles of the rich, the infamous and the decadent. Its main characters have too much money, which can be a good thing, and too much time on their hands, which can be a very bad thing. There is a sort of perverse pleasure in watching them sort through their various problems, most of which are indirectly of their own making. Writer-director Paul Schrader has always cast a cynical eye on human endeavors. Sometimes, his insights have been absolutely brilliant. [He wrote both " Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull".] But even when he is playing around, as in "American Gigolo", he creates for us an interesting world, which can also be repellant because we see a certain amount of truth in his characterizations. Richard Gere is Julian Kaye, a very well paid [and apparently well educated] LA hustler. His specialty is wealthy, older women. Arrogant and self-assured, he has made his share of enemies in his shadowy world, especially among his pimps. Things get complicated for him when he falls for Michelle Stratton [Lauren Hutton], wife of a prominent political figure. But far worse is in store for him after a client is murdered and Julian becomes the number one suspect. Giorgio Moroder contributes a lively musical score - very 80s. John Bailey's cinematography is first-rate. He captures the vanity and vulnerability of Julian right from the opening shots, for example. This is one of those movies that has more detractors than admirers. To me, it is wildly entertaining in a dark comedy way. Its one big fault is a contrived happy ending, which is diametrically opposed to the tone of the rest of the movie."
Lester Kanekuni | New Jersey | 06/21/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Stylish, beautifully designed movie. Unfortunately, the dvd has been color-corrected to remove the wonderful cool hues of the movie, which made it look as if had been shot through sunglasses. Scenes shot at dusk or night have been lightened to look like day. It's a shame this was done to such a styligh movie."