Twist of Fate

It snowed yesterday in New Orleans, and it is still cold today–albeit sunny. I am sitting at my desk this morning wearing fingerless gloves so I can type, a  knit LSU cap on my head, and a blanket wrapped around my legs. I also have to go to Costco at some point today, and I also have to get some things done. Needless to say, a temperature around fifty at my computer doesn’t make that more likely. I may check into space heaters at Costco today–although I may check the attic. There should be another one around here somewhere.

When I got home last night I turned on the heat and cleaned the upstairs, then grabbed a blanket and headed for my easy chair.I stopped reading The Last Picture Show when I got to the bestiality part (which I’d completely forgotten about) and even though there’s an even more important part of the story after the cow-rape (seriously), I just couldn’t pick the book up again. I know I can skip over that part, but honestly. I didn’t remember it, or the relatively nonchalant way McMurtry talked about it in the book–like it’s very common place amongst farm boys (literally, “every farm boy has done it”)–and I don’t know…I still have fond memories of the book, but despite the fact that it’s still really well written, I don’t know if I’m going to keep reading it; although I suppose if I continue reading it as an example of toxic masculinity…and the homophobia in it–what would toxic masculinity be without some good old homophobia?–is also not easy to read; because it’s so casual. 

Then again, that was the thing about the culture back then (it’s set in the 1950’s); the hate was so casual and matter-of-fact. It’s a short book, I may go back to it later today. (And interestingly enough, Larry McMurtry also co-wrote the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain, so there’s that.)

Speaking of homophobia, I was scrolling through HBO Now last night looking for something to watch, and noticed they had American Gigolo available. I had watched that movie only once, years ago on videotape, when a female friend had rented it. I didn’t remember much about it, other than Richard Gere was so incredibly beautiful and at the end Lauren Hutton came through for him at the end, and Blondie’s “Call Me” played over the opening credits and it was criminal that the didn’t at least get an Oscar nomination for Best Song. It should have WON, damn it. It’s a great song and it still holds up today.

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I also remembered that it wasn’t very good.

That memory was correct, but watching it again…so much wasted potential in this movie. It could have been a noir classic.

Gere plays Julian, or Jules, who basically is a gigolo, and not cheap. He works for several different pimps–one a blonde woman with a great beach house, the other a black gay man–but Jules is so in demand and so good at what he does-and let’s face it, Gere smolders. You can see why he catches everyone’s eye when he walks into a room, and no one wears an expensive suit like he does–but he’s also become incredibly arrogant because he is so good. Both of his pimps argue with him about the split on jobs they get for him–but he’s so good he always gets his way, but both warn him that his attitude and ingratitude to them is going to bite him in the ass one day. The gay pimp sets him up with a kinky job in Palm Springs–he has to be abusive to the woman while the husband watches–which makes him incredibly uncomfortable but he does the job well because the pimp tells him they want him back. Jules throws the word ‘fag’ around a lot–“I don’t do fags” etc., which, as someone who is paid for sex, I can certainly see why he would want to be clear on what he does and what he doesn’t, but again–casual homophobia. He meets and falls for Lauren Hutton in a restaurant at a posh hotel, who turns out to be an unhappy politician’s wife. They embark on a secret affair, but she turns out to be his alibi for the night the Palm Springs wife is murdered…and he can’t tell the police about her. This is also kind of where the movie goes off the rails. The crime itself is treated as an afterthought, and Jules being suspected and investigated–and he is being framed–are all secondary to his development as a character; all of this is just a moral lesson for him about being humble and how you shouldn’t treat people badly because they won’t stand by you when you need him, all the while he’s making this incredible noble sacrifice for the woman he loves.

A woman is brutally murdered as a plot point and pivot so Jules can learn humility.

Whoa. And wow.

And even the resolution doesn’t make sense. Turns out the gay pimp pulled off this elaborate ruse and frame just to teach Jules a lesson in humility? I wasn’t really clear on this at the end; it didn’t make sense to  me the first time I watched and it still didn’t make sense this time. The confrontation with the pimp ends with him accidentally knocking him off the balcony, but Jules tries to save him, but he can’t hold him. He falls to his death with Jules literally left holding his boots. He is taken in by the police and arrested, refuses to speak to his lawyer, but then Lauren Hutton comes forward and alibis him for the original murder, because she loves him…and they speak to each other through glass in the prison’s visiting room when she tells him she’s cleared him because she loves him. The end. And my first thought was, well, your alibi isn’t going to do him any good NOW that he’s killed the pimp, even if it was an accident. So you just blew up your own life for no reason because he’s still going to jail.

None of that was resolved. It’s really a shame, because it could have been a great noir classic. And it many ways it is actually a good film, and highly original: it was one of the first movies to ever focus so heavily on male beauty, and Gere is often in underwear or naked (full frontal, at that) or shirtless; the camera lingers over him lovingly the way it previously only did for women; the soundtrack by Giorgio Moroder was excellent and also the first time electronica music was used for a film score; and the entire film is beautifully shot. But the writer/director didn’t see it as a film noir or a crime film; he saw it as a character study with a redemptive arc, and that was where the film fell flat.

Pity.

And now back to the spice mines.

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