Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Fading Gigolo

Pretty Woah-man

Jesus, Mr Deeds’ butler, a Palestinian assassin: all have been played to side-splitting effect by the excellent John Turturro. His legendary character cameos have gone down in history as moments of comedic genius.

And now, in an unexpected twist, Turturro tries his hand at writing, directing and starring in his own film. A middle aged male prostitute can henceforth be added to his roster of eclectic roles. Make of that what you will.

Admittedly, Fading Gigolo appeals to particularly niche tastes. A ready appetite for black humour and delicious cinematography will leave you wanting extra courses from the debut filmmaker. The majority of viewers, on the other hand, probably won’t appreciate its delicate nuances.

Working part-time as a florist leaves lonely Fioravante (Turturro) short of money. Once his long-time friend Murray (Woody Allen) likewise falls on hard times, the older man suggests pimping his pal as an escort for an exclusive clientele of rich women. Of course, being granted many men’s ideal vocation pleases the unassuming Fioravante until a meeting with a timid widow (Vanessa Paradis) sparks the light of love in his heart.

It is not hard to see where this new auteur’s cinematic inspirations originated. A deep passion for New York’s urban scenery, tales of Jewish cultural neuroses, and sex all feature prominently in Allen’s body of work.

The multiple Oscar-winner must have been doing his co-star a big favour by appearing in a film not of his own creation. Or rather, it served as a nod of recognition to an artist of identical methods. Anyhow, it is nice to see Woody play Woody again rather than Owen Wilson or Jesse Eisenberg.

Some viewers might disagree with the overly talky approach of the script and relatively subdued tone. Sure, certain scenes drag to a finish but there is an inventiveness at play here which might mature with future outings.

For one thing, the dialogue is a lot less crude than you would imagine from the title. In fact, the stress is very much placed on drama rather than comedy. Most of the selected jokes are aimed at the social oddities of an enclosed community of orthodox Jews. Otherwise, the remaining humour resembles light banter between the two friendly stars.

In many ways Fading Gigolo tackles the issues of sex work with better focus than Pretty Woman but will still stretch the viewer’s imagination. As far as I know, Turturro has never been perceived as an especially handsome figure. Neither is he ugly. What else am I supposed to say?

After recently reading about his membership of the prestigiously exclusive “I don’t rate Shawshank Redemption” Club, I respect TV mentalist Derren Brown’s opinion on films. He tweeted as follows:

“Perfect afternoon watching John Turttoro's [sic] great Fading Gigolo. Woody Allen phenomenal. Very moving & beautifully done.”



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