I haven’t seen Paul Schrader‘s American Gigolo since it opened in February 1980. I may have actually caught it at a Manhattan press screening a few weeks before, come to think. Soon after I sat down with Schrader for a Films in Review interview piece (Vol. XXXI, issue 5, pages 284 — 276, “Paul Schrader: American Gigolo and Other Matters”). It was the beginning of a slicker, less gritty era mixed with the currents of darkness and depravity that you get with any Schrader film.
Richard Gere was young and beautiful then, of course, and the world of Manhattan was a smooth and seductive realm that was at the forefront of change. I recall thinking as I was writing the Schrader piece in my West 4th Street studio that the ’70s were being jettisoned and that “the 80s!” was a whole ‘nother state of mind. Glammy, greedier. Reaganism was waiting in the wings.
I was working hard and feeling anxious about money 24/7. I regarded myself as a so-so writer, at best. I would do cocaine and/or quaaludes whenever fortune smiled, and every so often I’d succumb to momentary feelings of shallow ecstasy. I used to dream about wearing great-looking Italian suits and shoes just like Gere does in this clip, except I couldn’t afford them. And yet somehow my impoverished circumstances didn’t interfere with my batting average, which was around .400.
A few months before seeing Gigolo I had donned a pair of black Raybans at a New York Film Festival opening-night party, and Andrew Sarris, standing nearby, cracked that I looked “like a Roman pimp in a Fellini film” — a moment of brief comfort. No big-gun critic had ever spoken to me with even a hint of affection or bon ami before.
I haven’t seen Gigolo in 36 years, and I’m thinking I’d like to catch it again at the Aero this evening, but watching a 35mm print concerns me. How pink will it be? A DCP of Schrader’s Hardcore (’79) will follow. Schrader will drop by for a brief q & a at some point during the evening.