Fading Gigolo

When is a Woody Allen movie not a Woody Allen movie? Maybe when you cast him in someone else’s film.

Fading Gigolo (2013) is a dark quirky romantic comedy that has superficial resemblances to a Woody Allen film.

  • It’s a comedy of manners
  • It’s classically structured
  • It’s a New York story
  • It features great performances from a small cast
  • The jazzy score creates subtle moods

But upon closer inspection there are a few interesting differences.

For starters, there’s the performance by Woody Allen. For once he seems relatively well-adjusted. Or in other words he simply delivers his lines because we’re not really meant to focus on him, Murray, the owner of a failed specialty bookstore.

Nope, this is someone else’s story and that someone else is John Turturro, as writer of the story, director and playing the protagonist, who may have the gorgeous name of Fioravante (because he also has a few other aliases).  But this name suits him well, given that he’s an expert flower arranger, among so many skills you just know he’d make an ideal friend & companion.

As usual I’ll avoid giving it all away, but I do have to say a few things about Turturro’s remarkable film.

Within sixty seconds Turturro has immersed us in the plot and justified the film’s title, as Murray casually tells the younger man with the gorgeous name that his doctor (an attractive woman) needs to find someone to participate in a threesome: and you can guess who’s going to be that someone.  Murray is a deus ex machina, a cross between an old-fashioned Jewish matchmaker and a pimp.

Is Turturro teasing us?

Maybe film-makers really are pimps, as capable of making dreams come true as Bergman or Fellini. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the one who sets this all in motion, enabling the fulfillment of dreams –whether we mean the dreams of the lonely doctor or of his middle-aged male friend – is a film director.

And is Turturro perhaps saying that everyone in film (actors and collaborators) are the director’s  ho? Maybe all of the above.

We have the weirdest mix of characters in this film. Sophia Vergara & Sharon Stone give us a very upscale version of sexiness, women who can afford to pay for their pleasure even if you’d never expect such remarkable women to need to avail themselves of a professional companion. We’re certainly in a magical place of wish-fulfillment and forgiveness, not least because we get to see Sharon Stone.

I am again impressed by Liev Schreiber’s range, his ability to get deep inside a character, to thoroughly surprise you, and all the while speak in one of the most musical speaking voices I’ve ever heard. Between Schreiber and Vanessa Paradis, as well as a few gorgeous moments from Stone, we get to hear subtly nuanced voices, teased out in delicious clarity by a director with an ear for detail.

I won’t tell you anything further, for fear of giving it all away. But Turturro does offer us several moments of pure lyrical stillness. As with any well-executed classic, Fading Gigolo bears repeated watchings –although as an opera fan and lover of great film music I’m inclined to call them “hearings”– leading you to more and more nuances in subsequent viewings. I’ve only seen it twice in 24 hours, but look forward to seeing it again.

Now if only Turturro would make more films.

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