FILM | Reviews
PROFILE JOHN TURTURRO
Background An Italian American born in Brooklyn, Turturro is a veteran of scores of film roles, including multiple collaborations with the Coen brothers and Spike Lee, and an action-figure-worthy turn in the Transformers franchise. What’s he up to now? Launching his fifth film as director, Fading Gigolo, in which he also stars as a down-on-his-luck florist who, with the help of a pal-turned-pimp (Woody Allen), undertakes a new life as a paid companion to lonely women, among them Sharon Stone and Vanessa Paradis.
On working with Allen ‘I had an idea that he and I could be good together as a duo; and people kept saying, “You guys should work together . . . ” We share a haircutter, but we didn’t know one another. Then we did work together [Turturro directed a short play of Allen’s in 2011], and we became close friends. I thought that us reinventing ourselves in the sex business could be amusing if I explored it in a nuanced way. Woody liked the idea, and once I wrote it, he gave me his merciless criticism. We have a nice chemistry.’ On playing a prostitute ‘I’ve always been interested in films about sex workers. I didn’t really explore the exploitative side of it too much. Sometimes, someone is alone, or sick, or grieving, and there is a kind of healing that goes on. People have this unceasing need for human connection, human touch. I thought it could be a metaphor for what goes on between a man and a woman. It’s more about intimacy than sex. And the response from the female audience has been overwhelming.’
On directing and playing the lead ‘The hardest thing is the schedule. You have to be really organised. But as Woody says, it’s one less person to talk to.’
On making what he calls a ‘delicate comedy’ ‘It’s very hard to convince people to give you money, but I credit Woody with encouraging me. He said, “There’s nothing wrong with a serious comedy.” Gentleness is very powerful. Sometimes films are so crude – they leave nothing for your imagination to work with. I tried to make a movie that people like myself would go and see.’ On the film’s religious element ‘I’m from a Catholic background. If I’m going to make a film about sex, religion’s going to be in there too.’ (Interview by Hannah McGill) ■ Fading Gigolo is on limited release from Fri 23 May.
70 THE LIST 15 May–12 Jun 2014
DOCUMENTARY PANTANI: THE ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF A CYCLIST (15) 92min ●●●●●
The death of Italian road race champion Marco Pantani in 2004 was a key moment in the history of cycling; a folk hero to millions, Pantani was a troubled individual who ended up being hounded from the sport he loved by accusations of doping. The subsequent revelation of widespread drug use by Lance Armstrong, pictured competing with Pantani in the opening scenes of James Erskine’s documentary, throws a fresh light on the subject; when many cyclists were being chemically assisted, why was Pantani singled out? Erskine doesn’t quite get to grips with the answer;
Pantani’s mother alludes to the notion of a ‘mafia’ who controlled the sport, but the film never focuses its anger on specific individuals. Instead, a mixture of cycling footage, reconstructions and interviews artfully piece together the story of a boy obsessed with being the best of the best.
Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist is fuelled by an underlying anger about how an individual can
be manipulated by corrupt officials, but stops short of laying a punch. And the problem is that Pantani, whatever his gifts, was at least partly responsible for his own downfall; Erskine’s documentary requires a few less shots of misty mountain roads and more specific investigation of the detail of Pantani’s fall from grace. (Eddie Harrison) ■ Filmhouse, Edinburgh, from Fri 16 May.
COMEDY FADING GIGOLO (15) 90min ●●●●●
While his acting career has thrown up a number of memorable turns, notably through collaborations with the Coen brothers (Barton Fink, The Big Lebowski), John Turturro’s own films as director (Mac, Romance and Cigarettes) have tended to over-egg the ethnic charm. His latest, Fading Gigolo, features Turturro as taciturn New York florist Fioravante who finds new opportunities as part of the oldest profession under the guidance of his friend Murray (Woody Allen), the owner of an antiquarian book store.
‘You’re like candy. Top shelf, hard to reach,’ purrs Fioravante’s first client, Murray’s dermatologist Dr Parker (Sharon Stone), as she proposes a ménage with Selima (Sofia Vergara). Soon the lover’s remote nature makes him a hot business proposition as motormouth Murray eagerly sources new clients, including widower Avigal (Vanessa Paradis). A back rub from Fioravante reawakens her sensuality, but also brings the scheme to the notice of neighbourhood-watcher Dovi (Liev Schreiber), whose orthodox Jewish nature takes offence, not least because he has designs on Avigal himself. Having restyled themselves under the names Virgil and Danny Bongo, Fioravante and Murray find that their money-making enterprise has complications they don’t see coming.
Despite the depictions of threesomes and tax-free love, Fading Gigolo is a determinedly old- fashioned entertainment, showcasing a familiar comic turn from Allen and with a strong sense of the local communities of Brooklyn and Williamsburg. That said, Turturro seems content with playing cute with male-female representation, and other than the glossy evocation of the gigolo’s sensual charm, there’s not much meat on the bones in terms of considering gender roles; the women are all primed for sexual awakening at his touch. Like the character he plays, Turturro clearly wants his film to be adored, but Fading Gigolo’s decidedly male fantasy doesn’t offer enough laughs or heart to be more than a passing diversion. (Eddie Harrison) ■ See interview, left. Limited release from Fri 23 May.