Fading Gigolo (US - BD RA)
Jonathan views the directorial effort from John Turturro starring Woody Allen...
Murray (Woody Allen) talks his friend Fioravante (John Turturro) into becoming a gigolo as a way of making some much needed cash after an out-of-the-blue request from his dermatologist (Sharon Stone). With Murray acting as Fiorvante's "manager", the duo quickly finds themselves caught up in the crosscurrents of love and money. (From the Millennium Entertainment synopsis)
I wasn't wild about the idea of Fading Gigolo. Something about John Turturro casting himself as a ladies man (named Fioravante of all things) just seems rubs me the wrong way. But the presence of Woody Allen intrigued me. Despite his troubled personal life, I'm a consistent fan of Woody Allen's artistic output. It's very rare that he acts in a movie he didn't write or direct. This marks the first time he has done so in 14 years, following Alfonso Arau's Picking Up the Pieces. Don't remember it? That sounds about right. If not for the age of the characters, Fading Gigolo would have the premise of a dumb teenage sex comedy, but thankfully it never functions anything like one. It is, at its core, a gentle movie about human relationships. Yet at the same time it also tries to be a broad comedy. These tones can work together, and in an Indiewire interview Turturro demonstrated that he knows this, but sadly he does not pull it off. This is painfully apparent toward the climax of the narrative, when one characters emotional narrative intersects with a cartoonishly over the top bet din (Jewish tribunal). It is frustrating because the story could definitely use some comedic relief in the final stretch, but the broadness of it was just a major turn off.
While I was pleasantly surprised to find the tone of the movie very kind, I still did not find much here that impressed me. Turturro is playing the silent suave type, but I just found his performance boring and wooden. To nobody's surprise, Woody Allen is playing a very Woody Allen-like Jewish New Yorker. He is just there to make some inappropriate comments from time to time. A better script would mine its humor from the characters, but here all the comedy rests on quips from his character. Allen's influence extends beyond his casting. Turturro spends a lot of time developing a sense of the Brooklyn neighborhood where the events take place. We spend a lot of time with recurring small characters and it creates a convincing sense of community reminiscent of Allen's earlier work. There's also a lot Jewish presence in this neighborhood, including a Shomrim patrolman played by Liev Shrieber who is onto Murray and Fioravante's funny business. Even Schreiber, who is an antagonist, is portrayed as a very sensitive and caring man. There isn't an offensive character in the movie. Sharon Stone is excellent in a supporting role as a middle aged housewife dissatisfied with her romantic life, but the screenplay never looks further than the surface of her marital issues. She exists to initiate Fioravante's story and then she is sidelined. The main highlight of the movie for me is Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), a vulnerable widow that Fioravante has feelings for after visiting her under the pretense that he is a masseuse. While the character's development went in a disappointing direction, Paradis is excellent in the role, looking like she walked out of a French New Wave film and brought the charm of the era with her.
As you can see from the screenshots, this is a very red/yellow movie. It has a warm look to match its warm tone, and it works for the content. Skin tones are unnaturally tan, sometimes bordering on red as a result. Fading Gigolo has an old fashioned look to it, evidenced by its opening credits in 8 mm. The movie was shot on 35 mm which adds tremendously to the warm look and feel of the movie. This transfer doesn't pack nearly as much detail as your digital blockbusters, but it has a personality that is perfectly befitting of the subject matter. Fioravante's flower shop occupation leads to some colorful, eye-popping visuals from time to time. Turturro and cinematographer Marco Pontecorvo find some lovely compositions that complement the personality of the picture. There is little to complain about with the visuals, but you could definitely make the argument that it is too warm looking.
The Woody Allen inspiration is apparent in the soundtrack too. Turturro's soundtrack is lined with a lot of classy jazz pieces, and they sound pleasant and lively in this Dolby Digital True HD 5.1 track. I feel like I say this a lot (I review to many independent dramas), but this is one of those sound mixes that isn't engineered to blow the roof off of your living room. It's an appropriately subtle mix that marries the material just fine. Dialogue is isolated to the front and center speaker without much variation. Aside from a small doses of ambient noise in some neighborhood segments, the only time the LFE and surround channels are utilized is in the soundtrack. It's enough for this small scale movie, and I can't imagine a reasonable person being underwhelmed by what is here.
Extras are light, starting off with a an Audio Commentary with John Turturro and Cameron Bossert. Bossert is credited as Turturro's personal assistant who helped him in many aspects of the production. Turturro and Bossert seem like very humble and friendly guys. Listening to them lovingly recount working with everyone made me wish I liked the movie more. There are six Deleted Scenes (HD, 11:01), some of which are extended/alternate takes on scenes that remained in the film. One of them plays more like a quick blooper segment.
My first foray into John Turturro's directorial work is a disappointment. I was delighted to find the tone of the story so warm and kind given the premise, but that nice surprise was undercut by a lack of interesting characters and an unstable balance of comedy and drama. This Blu-ray release has very little in the way of extras, but the audio and video don't disappoint.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Jonathan Hogberg
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 19th August 2014
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Extras: Deleted Scenes, Audio Commentary with Director John Turturro
Easter Egg: No
Director: John Turturro
Cast: John Turturro, Woody Allen, Sharon Stone
Length: 90 minutes
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