Review: Gigola

FILMINK takes a peek at one of the steamy films set to play as part of the World Movie Channel\'s risque Do Not Disturb series...

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With an assorted mix of erotic films that explore human sexuality, the World Movie Channel\'s Do Not Disturb series promises to serve up a salacious and intoxicating after-dark cocktail. Screening as part of the program on July 2, French drama Gigola follows the life of a young lesbian-gigolo in 1960s Paris - and whilst it offers a sweet taste of raunch, viewers should be warned that this night-cap contains artificial flavours...

The alluring Gigola (Lou Doillon) is a lady of the night, pleasuring wealthy Parisian women with her self-assured sexuality. Despite her commanding nature, she remains emotionally shut off, haunted by the suicide of a former lover. Estranged from her opium-addicted father, she half-heartedly attempts to open up to her disapproving mother, Solange (a scene-stealing Marisa Berenson). Meanwhile, she throws herself into the exuberant 1960s Parisian club-culture, introducing her to a world of eccentric characters including the charismatic barmaid Dominique (played by Almodovar favourite, Rossy de Palma).

What begins as a richly layered premise quickly unravels into a stereotype-laden affair, with a weak script and an unsympathetic central character. Gigola isn\'t your traditional Hollywood prostitute with a heart of gold - she\'s cold and mean. Although this is part of the appeal to her clients, with little insight into her psychology, she\'s an irksome lead. Writer/director Laure Charpentier attempts to balance Gigola\'s frostiness with a handful of colourful characters, such as the psychotic prostitute \'Dolly\', but they ultimately grate. The most interesting aspect of the narrative is Gigola\'s relationship with an older woman, who bears a striking resemblance to her deceased lover. The woman\'s sexual identity is repressed, opting for a family life that leaves her hollow and their scenes together carry genuine pathos.

Despite such moments, the film isn\'t too concerned with exploring sexuality within the social context of the 1960s; the setting is more of a platform for aesthetics to run wild. Costumes are stunning, and it has been crisply photographed with an attention to colour and detail within each frame. Unfortunately, the soundtrack is an ill-conceived one, reminiscent of demo tracks on a keyboard. Efforts at injecting exuberance and joy into the material through music fall flat.

Gigola has a tone that borders on the farcical, failing to stay grounded in reality. Unfortunately, it doesn\'t sparkle or light up the way it was intended, with the director opting for cheap sentimentalism. Perhaps the concept required a heavier touch to provide a more intimate character study - but as it stands, Gigola does have a refreshing take on the gigolo story, and with titillating, risqué moments, it\'s sure to leave many viewers on a sugary high.

Gigola is screening on the World Movies Channel as part of the Do Not Disturb program, playing Saturdays, 9:30 pm. To check what other steamy flicks are set to play, go here.

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