Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Just a Gigolo (1979)

Just a Gigolo starts as Paul, a very young Prussian officer (played by David Bowie), arrives at the front line just in time for the end of the First World War, and manages to get himself blown up in the last seconds of the war. After lying in a coma in a French hospital for a year or so he awakes and makes his way back to Berlin, only to find that nothing now makes any sense to him. He drifts into a number of dead-end jobs, meets up with his old commanding officer (played by David Hemmings) who is now an aspiring fascist leader with his own little gang of bully-boys. Well actually he only has one bully-boy, but he's hoping that more will join soon. Paul eventually finds himself recruited by a baroness (played by Marlene Dietrich) into her stable of gigolos.

This is a German movie, but was directed (with considerable panache) by David Hemmings. It looks rather wonderful. It's a kind of absurdist tragi-comedy. It seems that everyone except Paul has ideas of where his life should be going. The ending (which I won't spoil for you) is strangely appropriate in its utter absurdity. Bowie is superb, managing to give the character a certain baffled dignity. Hemmings is entertainingly over-the-top. Sydne Rome is a kind of vaguely Sally Bowles-ian cabaret singer, and is quite impressive especially in her musical numbers. Kim Novak goes close to stealing the picture as a general's widow determined to get Paul into bed. The scene where she attempts to seduce him are brilliantly weird and funny and disturbing and completely absurd. And Marlene Dietrich looks impressive, and songs the title song. The movie's mix of pathos and satire doesn't always work, but this is still a highly entertaining and thoughtful movie, and very stylish. Don't expect it to be another Cabaret, it's a totally different style of movie despite some obvious similarities. Well worth a look, if you can find it.

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