Laure Charpentier’s Gigola (2010) premiered at last year’s London Gay and Lesbian Film Festival to riotous applause. Starring newcomer Lou Doillon as an immaculately presented tomboy and empowered prostitute, Gigola is a refreshing piece of gay cinema which oozes with Parisian charm and eroticism.
Georgina’s (Doillon) burgeoning sexuality is awoken by a passionate affair with her former headmistress. However, their forbidden love is cut short when Georgia’s mature lover commits suicide. This emotionally devastating event leads to Georgina skulking into the Parisian underworld where she changes her name to Gigola, and begins a fruitful career servicing rich, aristocratic women. Her illicit profession rewards her with a collection of fine jewellery, fast cars and remarkably well-tailored suits. She uses the remains of her lavish income to free similar high-class prostitutes from the grasps are their controlling pimps – however, in the process she ends up falling in love with one of these fragile young girls.
Gigola’s most endearing feature has to be its incredibly stylish look and feel. Charpentier’s film is constantly sexy, even when it’s not succumbing to soft porn filming techniques. The moments when the film’s more ‘intimate’ scenes become sound-tracked by the type of inoffensive, late-night-sax songs that once accompanied most of Channel 5’s original late night output do feel mildly cheap and tacky. However, these brief dalliances into shoddy depictions of sex and passion are saved by the meticulous way cinematographer
Theo Angelopoulos has successfully captured the erotically fuelled vibrancy of 1960s Paris. From the outrageously suave costumes to the indulgent champagne fuelled cabaret nights, Angelopoulos vision of Paris makes for a thoroughly enjoyable viewing experience – naughty but nice, titillating but never exploitative, Gigola evokes a charming and phenomenally cool atmosphere.
Lou Doillon commands the screen well enough and for the majority of the film her deadpan, emotionally numb and hardened appearance works wonderfully. However, her character (after a rather rushed exposition), never seems to evolve. She’s obviously damaged from her lover’s suicide, yet she never seems to reveal the inner anguish she’s feeling, continually hiding behind the metaphorical armour she uses to mask her grief. Had we been privy to more personal moments with Gigola the film’s ending (intended to be a heartbreaking depiction of solitude), would have resonated much more effectively – instead leaving us numb, staring at a character as cold and tarnished by loss as she was at the beginning of the film.
Charpentier should be commended for creating an assured lesbian thriller in a gay film industry which (despite its sexually driven independence from the mainstream) still remains very much a ‘man’s world’. Gigola works perfectly as a piece of alternative gay cinema, yet sadly feels like a massive disappointment. The pieces are all here for a thoroughly enjoyable romp into the seedy underworld of Paris, yet the underdevelopment of Gigola’s incredibly watchable and deeply intriguing protagonist undoes a lot of the hard work previously invested into the film.
Gigola is an incredibly stylish and impressive visual display which sadly lacks the depth to promote it from the realms of cult status to a more diverse audience.