Moviedrome Mondays: Blue Collar (1978) and American Gigolo (1980) (Mark Cousins intro)

This week’s Moviedrome Monday entry is a double-bill consisting of two films directed and written by Paul Schrader.

Blue Collar (1978)

Since I could not find a youtube video link of Moviedrome presenter Mark Cousins introduction to Paul Schrader’s 1978 directorial debut Blue Collar (he also co-wrote it with his brother Leonard), readers will have to rely on his intro transcript here. The episode’s original airdate was July 13, 1997 (read here). Since I can’t comment on his most recent film The Card Counter (have not seen it yet), I will say that after 2017’s First Reformed (for me his masterpiece), Blue Collar ranks as my second favorite film by Schrader as a director.

Here is a youtube video link to the film’s original theatrical trailer

American Gigolo (1980)

I have posted a youtube video link below to Moviedrome presenter Mark Cousins introduction to Schrader’s 1980 neo-noir sexual drama American Gigolo. Readers can also read Cousins intro transcript here. The episode’s original airdate was July 14, 1997 (read here). I am sorry, but I have to totally disagree with Cousins on this one. For myself, American Gigolo is a film that alternated between bad and mediocre. Visually, it perfectly captures the excess that defined the 1980’s on a whole – courtesy of it’s art deco and John Bailey’s cinematography. Giorgio Moroder’s music score – (including his involvement with Blondie’s Debbie Harry on the hit song Call Me) serves as a fitting contribution. Last, but not least, we get outstanding performances from it’s two leads, which in this case would be Richard Gere and Lauren Hutton. So now you might be wondering what my problem with American Gigolo is? Schrader’s reported intention of playing American Gigolo as a Bressonian character study feels out of place here for what becomes a routine commercial mystery. Given that the film’s visual style was influenced by Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist (a reported favorite of Schrader’s), maybe it would have been more fitting for the previously mentioned director/writer to play it as a Bertoluccian one – regardless of whether it’s more commercial aspects benefit or hinder it (the latter in this case), but that is just me. Equally problematic (as others have noted – here is Moviedromer’s thoughts below Cousins intro transcript) is the homophobia and sexism on display here – whenever these sentiments are not expressed by Gere’s lead character, they take the form of Schrader’s depiction of some of the characters as played by Bill Duke, Tom Stewart and (combing the former with the latter) Nina van Pallandt. My qualms here lie less with those aforementioned accusations against it and more with how those criticisms end up considerably damaging the result – once one combines the first half’s (supposed) Bressonian elements with the debatably more conventional ones of the second, American Gigolo can’t help but come off as sophomoric for a drama and uncharacteristic for a commercial film of this type.

Here is a youtube video link to Mark Cousins Moviedrome intro to American Gigolo

Here is a youtube video link to the film’s original theatrical trailer