Thursday, July 04, 2013

American Gigolo

Written and directed by Paul Schrader, American Gigolo is the story of a male escort who finds himself in danger after the death of a client just as his life becomes more complicated when he falls for a politician’s wife. The film is an exploration into the world of a man who lives to give women pleasure while he deals with some of the drawbacks of his world. Starring Richard Gere, Lauren Hutton, Hector Elizondo, Nina van Pallandt, and Bill Duke. American Gigolo is an entrancing yet provocative film from Paul Schrader.

The film explores the life of Julian Kaye (Richard Gere) who is an escort that sleeps with many women all over the posh areas of Southern California as he works alone with the exception of a madam named Anne (Nina van Pallandt) who offers him assignments. Kaye’s life becomes complicated following a trick where he is paid by a man named Rheiman (Tom Stewart) to have sex with his wife (Patricia Carr) while he watches as she is later killed that night with Kaye being the suspect. Though he was somewhere else that night, Kaye is unable to find help just as he is starting a relationship with Michelle Stratton (Lauren Hutton) whose husband is a powerful senator. Michelle knows that he’s telling the truth as his life starts to unravel as he seeks to find answers about why he’s being targeted.

Paul Schrader’s script is full of complexities into the life of this man who loves to have sex with various rich women in Southern California as some of them are married. Kaye is good at what he does but some believe he’s becoming too good at his job where pimps like Anne and Leon (Bill Duke) want him to work for them full-time. Still, Kaye just wants to live a life where he can drive his Mercedes SL, listen to music with his expensive stereo equipment, and wear the finest clothes that is available. It’s a life that is flawed as Kaye is also somewhat full of himself as he wants no complications as he demands to have control. After a trick involving a rich man and his wife that led to the death of the latter, Kaye’s life starts to lose control as he becomes a suspect.

Kaye is known as a professional but his life becomes more complicated by the appearance of Michelle Stratton who is intrigued by what he does as she wants the same things that other women want from him. Yet, they eventually get close as she knows that he didn’t kill Mrs. Ryman but their affair is complicated when Senator Stratton (Brian Davies) becomes aware of what is happening. Schrader’s script is filled with some very rhythmic and stylish dialogue to play out the world that Kaye is in as well as the kind of language he and Michelle talk into as it would also play into the third act when Kaye is targeted by the police led by Detective Sunday (Hector Elizondo). Particularly as paranoia would emerge in Kaye as he is dealing with the mystery over the murder and why is he being framed for it.

Schrader’s direction is very stylized in the way he presents this film as this sort of slick yet gritty film that plays to that sense of excitement and decadence in the life of an escort. Notably as it plays off with a sense of look where Kaye wears Giorgio Armani clothes and lives in a posh apartment complex where Schrader goes for a lot of wide and medium shots to showcase this world that is enthralling but also sort of cold. Schrader also uses a lot of tracking shots to play out some of the suspense as well as close-ups to play into the emotions involving Kaye and Michelle. Largely as Schrader wants to keep many of the scenes low-key and simple while having this air of style that is happening including some chilling moments such as Kaye meeting Leon at a gay disco.

Schrader also manages for the film’s sexual content to be presented in a sense of style that includes a wide full-frontal shot of Kaye as he’s standing in his room while talking to Michelle who is lying in bed. Still, Schrader doesn’t make the sexual content to be overwhelming to the story where he is more focused on the life of this man who is sort of a loner as he starts to unravel by something he didn’t do. Schrader invests a lot of chilling moments into the third act where Kaye becomes more concerned with who is framing him as he no longer cares about how he looks or what car he’s driving. There is still that chill that occurs in the way Schrader presents the mystery and its eventual outcome where it plays to Kaye’s development and the fate that is set for him. Overall, Schrader creates a very harrowing yet mesmerizing film about the life of an escort gone wrong by accusations of murder.

Cinematographer John Bailey does brilliant work with the film‘s very colorful and stylized photography where it has this sense of vibrancy for many of its daytime exterior scenes while using lots of low-key lighting schemes and shades for some of its nighttime interior and exterior scenes. Editor Richard Halsey does fantastic work with the editing to create some unique montages for a sex scene between Kaye and Michelle along with some methodical cuts for the film‘s suspense. Art director Edward Richardson and set decorator George Gaines do amazing work with the look of some of the film’s set pieces from the gay disco club to some of the restaurants that Kaye goes to as well as his apartment that features additional contributions from production designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti.

Sound mixer Barry Thomas does terrific work with the sound to play up the atmosphere of some of the film‘s suspense including some of the intimate moments in Kaye‘s apartment and at the restaurants he goes to. The film’s music by Giorgio Moroder is wonderful for its synthesizer-based score to play up the world that Kaye lives in with its eerie notes as the soundtrack also includes contributions from John Hiatt, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, and Blondie whose song Call Me appears in the opening credits as it’s written by Moroder and Blondie vocalist Debbie Harry.

The casting by Vic Ramos is excellent as it features appearances from K Callan as a woman who is a friend of Kaye as she doesn’t want to help him because of her reputation, Tom Stewart and Patricia Carr as the Rheimans who would put Kaye into trouble, Brian Davies as Michelle’s husband, Jessica Potter as Kaye’s neighbor Jill, and Gordon Haight as a mysterious blond boy that hangs around with Leon. Bill Duke is terrific as the more street-wise pimp Leon who was the one that put Kaye into the Rheiman assignment that would get him in trouble while Nina van Pallandt is wonderful as the more refined madam Anne who respects Kaye but feels unappreciated for the things she’s done for him. Hector Elizondo is superb as Detective Sunday as a man who believes that Kaye knows a lot more about what happened to Mrs. Rheiman while trying to see if Kaye is really innocent.

Lauren Hutton is amazing as Michelle Stratton as a woman who is intrigued by Kaye and what he does as she finds someone who she can talk to and have sex with while becoming the one person that might be able to help him with his troubles. Finally, there’s Richard Gere in an incredible performance as Julian Kaye as a male escort who loves his job and what he gets out of it where Gere can be charming but also kind of smug at times. Once Kaye gets in trouble, Gere puts in a lot of humility and intensity as a man who is trying to found out the truth and why he’s being framed as it’s definitely one of Gere’s most iconic performances.

American Gigolo is a remarkable film from Paul Schrader that features a riveting performance from Richard Gere. Along with a great supporting cast and eerie soundtrack by Giorgio Moroder, the film is definitely one of the most provocative and haunting films about sex and murder. Notably as it plays into the life of an escort and some of the flaws in his life as he is also a very lonely man. In the end, American Gigolo is a phenomenal film from Paul Schrader.

Paul Schrader Films: Blue Collar - Hardcore - Cat People (1982 film) - Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters - (Light of Day) - (Patty Hearst) - (The Comfort of Strangers) - (Light Sleeper) - (Witch Hunt) - (Touch) - Affliction - (Forever Mine) - (Auto Focus) - (Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist) - (The Walker) - (Adam Resurrected) - (The Canyons) - Dying of the Light - (Dog Eat Dog) - First Reformed - (The Card Counter)

© thevoid99 2013

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