Saturday, January 08, 2022

Just a Gigolo


Directed by David Hemmings and written by Ennio De Concini and Joshua Sinclair, Just a Gigolo is the story of an officer who finds work as a gigolo following the end of World War I as he deals with a growing conflict in Berlin between Nazis and Communists. The film is a dramatic piece where a man deals with his new role just as the world he’s in is changing as he’s unsure of what to do. Starring David Bowie, Sydne Rome, Kim Novak, Maria Schell, David Hemmings, Curd Jurgens, and in her final film performance, Marlene Dietrich. Just a Gigolo is a nonsensical and ridiculous film from David Hemmings.

Set from 1918 to 1926, the film revolves around an officer who returns to Berlin three years after World War I with nothing that suits his skills other than menial jobs where he eventually becomes a gigolo amidst a growing conflict between Nazis and Communists. It is a film that explores a man just trying to find his role after the events of the world but it’s a film that wants to be a comedy but also a drama as well as a period piece but writers Ennio De Concini and Joshua Sinclair create a story that is just a fucking mess. Notably as the protagonist of Paul Ambrosius von Przygodski (David Bowie) is always in some situation where he is often lost and is often made to look like a buffoon. Notably as he would take jobs that are humiliating while is pining for a longtime childhood friend in the revolutionary prostitute in Cilly (Sydne Rome). Paul would often find himself in situations such as being an unwilling participant in a resistance group led by his former superior in Captain Herrmann Kraft (David Hemmings) that would eventually become the Nazis and eventually become a gigolo for the Baroness von Semering (Marlene Dietrich) where he woos older women including an officer’s widow in Helga von Kaiserling (Kim Novak).

David Hemmings’ direction is all over the place where it begins in the battlefield where Paul is at the front line of a battlefield where he meets Captain Kraft only to be hit with a shell that lead him to a French hospital where he’s mistaken for a French officer. There are some unique shots that Hemmings creates but the film has a lot of tonal issues in whether he wants to create something serious that is meant to be played for laughs or the other way around and it never works. There are also these moments on whenever a new year in the story begins, there is this recurring gag of two old ladies talking as it never establishes their purpose in the film while Hemmings’ direction with the actors has them in some situations that is humiliating with the exception of the two scenes with the Baroness. Even as it wants to be some political film or a character study yet there is never sense of cohesion throughout the film where Hemmings wants to make this some kind of political-comedy or a character-drama about a man who is lost after World War I. Overall, Hemmings crafts a messy and meandering film about a World War I Prussian officer who later becomes a gigolo.

Cinematographer Charly Steinberger does nice work with the film’s cinematography as it has some stylish lighting for some of the scenes at the Hotel Eden where the Baroness lives as well a few exterior scenes at night. Editors Siegrun Jager and Alfred Srp do fine work with the editing though given that the international version was cut down from the 147-minute premiere version to 105 minutes though there are moments in the film where it does meander. Production designer Peter Rothe does excellent work with the look of the home where Paul and his family live in as well as the ballroom of the Hotel Eden and the home of the Prince whom Cilly is sleeping with. Costume designers Mago and Ingrid Zore do amazing work with the stylish dresses that the women at the time with the former creating some designer clothing for the Baroness, Cilly, and the clothes that Paul wears.

Hair/makeup artist Antony Clave do terrific work with the look of the characters as it is stylized for the times. The sound work of Gunther Kortwich is good as it help play into the atmosphere of the locations though there’s moments that it does too much to play into the humor. The film’s music by John Altman and Gunther Fischer is wonderful as its mixture of jazz and folk to play into the music of the times do play into the humor while music supervisor Jack Fishman provide a soundtrack including some standards as well as an original song written by Bowie that a group of rebels sing early in the film as well as the titular song that is sung by the Baroness.

The film’s ensemble cast do have their moments though a lot of them were hampered by the film’s nonsensical script and messy direction as it include some notable small roles from Hilde Weissner as Paul’s aunt Hilda, Evelyn Kunneke as an old woman that is one of Paul’s conquests late in the film, Erika Pulhar as a prostitute who lives at the apartment where Paul’s family live in, Werner Pochath as Captain Kraft’s brutish yet idiotic henchman Otto, Rudolph Schundler as Paul’s catatonic father who spends much of the film not moving in a stupid way, and Curd Jurgens in a wasted two-scene appearance as a Prince whom Cilly is having an affair with as he barely does anything in the film. Maria Schell is fantastic as Paul’s mother who is amazed that he is alive while worries about the thing he is doing as a gigolo but also in his time with Captain Kraft. Marlene Dietrich is incredible in her brief two-scene appearance as Baroness von Semering as she just maintains this presence in her role as this woman who runs a brothel of gigolos as she is just a joy to watch.

David Hemmings’ performance as Captain Herrmann Kraft is just terrible in the fact that he is this former military officer who is trying to be part of the Nazi movement is often played for laughs though there is nothing funny in what he’s doing while he takes it way too seriously to be engaging. Kim Novak’s performance as an officer’s widow in Helga von Kaiserling is an odd performance that really doesn’t do much for Novak to be engaging but rather be this seductress who tries too hard at times while her attempts to be funny are forced. Sydne Rome’s performance as Paul’s childhood sweetheart Cilly as this revolutionary prostitute who later becomes a Hollywood film star is badly written as someone who wants Paul but then wants to be with the Prince and follow her dreams where Rome does have her moments as a cabaret performer but never finds her balance as someone who really is Paul’s love interest. Finally, there’s David Bowie as Paul Ambrosius von Przygodski as a Prussian World War I officer who is lost in trying to find work only to become a gigolo where Bowie never really gets to find his footing in the role where his attempts to be funny is forced while the dramatic moments barely has him doing anything as it is definitely one of his worst performances in his acting career.

Just a Gigolo is a horrible film from David Hemmings. Despite the two-scene performance from the late Marlene Dietrich in her final film performance, the film is a meandering mess that never finds its footing while giving its ensemble cast nothing to do. Even fans of David Bowie will find the film to be a chore as the man himself also made his dislike about the film after its release as he is given nothing to do other than look ridiculous. In the end, Just a Gigolo is just a bad movie by David Hemmings.

© thevoid99 2022


Dell said...

I hadn't even heard of this one before. Now, I want to see it. Great job!

thevoid99 said...

I think it's available on TUBI but honestly, I would avoid it unless you want to see the 2 scenes with Marlene Dietrich. I really didn't like this as I only watched it because of Bowie but even he admitted that the film sucked. I read about what happened at the premiere of the 105-minute cut of the film that he attended where he and several cast members were there and were trying to hide in shame. I don't blame them.