Monday, April 11, 2016

American Gigolo (1980)

Director: Paul Schrader
Writer:    Paul Schrader
Cast:       Richard Gere, Lauren Hutton, Hector Elizondo

A Los Angeles male escort, who mostly caters to an older female clientele, is accused of a murder which he did not commit.

One would expect it to be a pulpy film in the vein of 'Basic Instinct' if you go by the above synopsis. It is anything but. Film is directed by Paul Schrader, who also wrote 'Taxi Driver', and that should be a clue enough regarding the nature of the film. Its protagonist, Julian, is sort of a social climber in terms of how he goes about his business. This has created a situation where he is on his own when he is framed for a murder by someone. Later his pimp, who sets him up, reveals that he was very framable as he had stepped on too many toes among people from the highest of social classes. While all this is going on, he develops a reluctant relationship with a senator's wife, Michelle, and is contemplating retirement from his job. This is a trope that is used in many favourite films of mine like Drive and Thief.

The film is not an as intense character study as Taxi Driver was. It is also much more suave keeping in with the social class that Julian does business with. He is ambitious and takes pride in his job. When Michelle asks him why he prefers an older clientele, he replies that it is much more of a challenge and hence more satisfying. Even when he confronts his pimp regarding him being setup, he portrays a sense of helplessness, even as he inadvertently kills him. Film is not overly sentimental and the gradual acceptance of his fate is done in quite a subtle manner.

Some might find the ending to be unsatisfying and bit of a letdown. Things are not exactly resolved but I didn't mind it. The music, whenever it crops up, is delightfully 80s. Richard Gere is just elegantly stylish in what was a breakout role for him. I especially enjoyed the performance of the detective played by Hector Elizondo. Overall, it is a great watch.

Rating: 4/5