Imagine going to an art-house, seeing paintings that are imperfect. The paintings are flawed but they talk of fallen leaves, sun behind the clouds in colors that are vibrant but not gaudy. They speak of happiness amidst complexity. Imagine standing in front of one such painting and smiling. Well, that is exactly the message behind John Turturro’s “Fading Gigolo”.
The movie looks like a tribute to Woody Allen (cinematographer Marco Pontecorvo’s gorgeous shots of autumn in New York). Visuals will make you feel it is very much Allen’s cinema in terms of cinematography, music and strangeness.
Turturro has managed to get together a strange ensemble of a cast. Allen plays Murray, who, after closing his rare bookstore, turns pimp (or “manager,” as he calls it) for financially strapped part-time florist Fioravante (Turturro, who also wrote the screenplay), arranging rendezvous with New York women. Murray convinces the lonely man that playing a gigolo would bring him only joy.
The movie focuses on Fioravante’s newfound occupation, at which he proves a natural with clients like Dr. Parker (Sharon Stone) and her wealthy friend Selima (Sofía Vergara, from TV’s “Modern Family”). In a series of such hookups with random females, and when you think, that this would continue, Fioravante meets Avigal (French actress Vanessa Paradis), a jewish widow having six children who is still in mourning for her husband three years after his death.
Avigal is the butterfly that comes out of her cocoon of grief and it is a joy to behold. Also, there is a deep-rooted impact of her loneliness and grief on the quiet bachelor Fioravante.
The movie, though light, resonates on visual and emotional levels and reaches commendable depth when exploring the relationship between Fioravante and the jewish widow.
There is a scene where Fioravante asks Avigal to shed all her inhibitions, he asks her to be herself and then kisses her…the scene not focuses on the kiss but the wig that he takes off her head…that’s the unusual beauty of the film.
The film also stars Liev Schrieber as Dovi, the volunteer officer in Brooklyn’s Hassidic neighbourhood patrol. Dovi is a childhood friend of Avigal with ambitions to become her new partner.
In terms of performances, Woody Allen is a delight to watch. He is witty, crazy and so not acting his age and that is humorous. Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara are mere objects in the movie. A lot could have been extracted out of these two. On the contrary, it is Vanessa Paradis who steals the show with her grief and power packed performance. She is sensuous, sad and beautiful. A hole in your heart is filled when she smiles on the screen. Turturro is graceful as a gigolo. He is sarcastic, speaks more through the arrangement of flowers, his eyes and smile. He gets movie the lightness it deserves.
The shortcoming and beauty of the movie is its pace. It takes time to get on to you. And probably, that’s how cinema should be—like wine, like a complex painting, like Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Fading Gigolo is one mile less than a joy ride but you leave the theatre with lightness-with a smile.
If you want to sit and appreciate art, go for Fading Gigolo, it is a beautiful distorted painting.
Censor Board rating: Adults only (A)
Catch the trailer here