(Paul Schrader, 1980)
In a detective story about a prostitute, you’d think that the sex and the judicial bits would be the most persuasive. But there are two section of American Gigolo which feel conspiculously out of place: the love-making montage (a static, unconvincing take on the one in Don’t Look Now, with a similar narrative role of cementing the central relationship) and the judicial-procedural bits at the end, with Gere mostly stuck silently behind glass).
These parts are unwanted digressions in an otherwise impeccable progress from the sleekly beguiling opening (Gere pretty and cocksure in his Armani wardrobe, with the filming and editing around him as impeccably stylish as the tailoring of his suits) to the noir-ish disintegration that overtakes the film as the plot takes hold. The soundtrack does a lot of work here, with Moroder pulling Blondie’s raging statement of desire, Call Me, into increasingly sad and unravelling forms. But the star is everything. Gere isn’t in that many films I enjoy, so I probably underrate his acting – here, he’s fantastic, with a restrained charisma that goes a long way to explaining both why all the society ladies want to fuck him, and why everyone else wants to fuck him over.
It also means he can carry the films morality lightly, unshowily. Like the similarly Schrader-written Taxi Driver (which gets an explicit shout out in a shot of Gere, seated with his hands on his knees, resigned in the moments after violence) there’s a thread of justice running through the whole ambivalent story, with Gere as a grubby innocent seeking absolution. Maybe it’s me being seduced by the movement of dissolution, maybe it’s just that Gere gets increasingly lovely the further he’s broken down, but I could have happily left the film before the final lift towards redemption.