From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
American Gigolo is a 1980 feature film, written and directed by Paul Schrader. Schrader based the film on French director Robert Bresson's Pickpocket (1959). It is also indirectly considered the second installment in his "night workers" trilogy, following Taxi Driver (1976) and preceding Light Sleeper (1992). The film's tagline is: "He's the highest paid lover in Beverly Hills. He leaves women feeling more alive than they've ever felt before. Except one."
Julian Kaye (Richard Gere), is a male prostitute in Los Angeles whose job supports his expensive tastes in cars, stereophonic equipment, and clothes (which serve as a surrogate for emotional contact). He is, at times, blatantly narcissistic and superficial, however, he openly claims to take some pleasure in his work from being able to sexually satisfy women. When on an assignment for his primary procuress, Anne (Nina Van Pallandt), he meets Michelle Stratton (Lauren Hutton), a local politician's unhappy wife, who is interested by him. Julian's other pimp, Leon (Bill Duke), sends him to the house of a financier, who asks Julian to physically abuse and copulate with the his wife while he watches them. Later, Julian learns that the financier's wife was murdered. Los Angeles Police Department Detective Sunday (Hector Elizondo) investigates Julian as a primary suspect. Though he was with a client on the night of the murder, the client refuses to give Julian an alibi, to protect her and her husband's reputations.
As Julian's relationship with Michelle deepens, suspicion of the murder mounts against him. He soon realizes that he is being framed and grows increasingly desperate. His decline is visually represented by a degeneration in style as his clothes become rumpled, he goes unshaven, and he even rents a cheap commuter car after his Mercedes has been tampered with. Julian finally confronts Leon, who confesses that one of the other, younger gigolos who works for him had inadvertently killed the wealthy man's wife. Leon had conceived of the plan to frame Julian. With no one to help him, Julian ends up in jail, awaiting trial for the murder; however, at the end Michelle risks her reputation and that of her husband to provide Julian with the alibi that can save him from prison. In the final shot, Julian tenderly rests his face against the glass that separates him from Michelle's hand.
The music was composed and performed by Giorgio Moroder and released on Polydor Records. "Call Me" by Blondie is the lead song for the popular soundtrack and a portion was played during the film's intro. The song "Love Passion" was written by Paul Schrader and Moroder and performed by Cheryl Barnes, of which can be heard in the gay club scene where Julian goes to seek help from Leon.
All tracks written by Giorgio Moroder unless otherwise noted
- "Call Me (Theme from American Gigolo)" (Giorgio Moroder, Deborah Harry) - 8:09
- Vocals by Blondie.
- "Love and Passion" (Giorgio Moroder, Paul Schrader) - 5:51
- Vocals by Cheryl Barnes
- "Night Drive" - 3:54
- "Hello Mr. W.A.M. (Finale)" - 4:36
- Based on clarinet concerto K. 622 in A Major by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
- "The Apartment" - 4:31
- "Palm Springs Drive" - 3:25
- "Night Drive (Reprise)" - 2:52
- "The Seduction (Love Theme)" - 3:13
- Giorgio Moroder - producer
- Harold Faltermeyer - arranger, keyboards
- Keith Forsey - drums, percussion
- Recorded at Westlake Audio, Los Angeles, California.
- Mixed and mastered at Allen Zentz Recording.
- This movie marked the first time a major Hollywood actor was frontally nude in a film.
- Julian Kaye drives a 1980 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL convertible.
- The wardrobe used in the film placed Armani on the fashion map.
- John Travolta had been offered the role, but due to payment disagreements with Schrader and his strict "No Nudity" policy, he dropped out. This is not the only role that Travolta has turned down only to be taken by Richard Gere. It occurred again when Travolta was offered the lead in both An Officer and A Gentleman (1982) and Chicago (2002).
- The role of society matron Mrs. Laudner, one of Julians' contacts is played in a rare appearance by Frances Bergen, the mother of actress Candice Bergen, who was considered by Schrader for the role of Michelle at one time.
- Paul Schrader wrote the role of Michelle Stratton for Julie Christie, who wanted to work with Richard Gere. When Gere was dropped in favor of John Travolta, she dropped out too. When Gere returned to the project, she meant to do the same, but Lauren Hutton had already been hired.
- Christopher Reeve was also offered the lead role, but turned it down, reportedly because he found the film's subject matter "distasteful".
- The composition of the final shot draws heavily from Robert Bresson's Pickpocket (1959), and Gere's dialog matches Pickpocket's closing narration almost verbatim. Paul Schrader later provided an introduction to the Criterion Collection DVD of Pickpocket.