There are two reasons to buy Just A Gigalo: David Bowie and Marlene Dietrich.
Dietrich was 77-years-old when Just A Gigolo was released and it was to be her final film film role. A native Berliner, in self-imposed exile, she refused to go to Germany for filming, meaning that Bowie never actually met her, even though the prospect of acting with her had been a clincher in his decision to take the role. Never-the-less, Bowie and Dietrich shine in a film that, sadly, doesn’t. Indeed Bowie often joked about the mutual embarrassment cast members would experience whenever they happened to meet!
Bowie plays Paul von Przygodski, a young Prussian gentleman, who arrives in the trenches in time to be caught in the final explosion of the Great War. After recuperating in a military hospital, where he is mistaken for a French hero, he returns to Berlin. His family home has been turned into a boarding house, his father (Rudolf Schündler) is paralyzed, and his mother (Maria Schell) is working in the Turkish baths. Attempting to find a new purpose, his former commanding officer, Captain Kraft (David Hemmings), tries to persuade him to join his right-wing movement and a widow, Helga von Kaiserling (Kim Novak), briefly seduces him with the finer things in life. In a society where the individual comes first and anyone can be bought, he is recruited by Baroness von Semering (Marlene Dietrich) as one in her regiment of gigolos. The cynical and decadent world of entertaining rich widows leads an increasingly disillusioned Paul to a poignant, and chilling end.
Just A Gigalo is a mess of a film with an interesting premise—exploring the chaos, trauma and desperate search for meaning, in a generation scarred by war. It’s too messy and too riotous to ever really succeed in what it aims at. Scenes seem random and characters come and go with no real impetus. But don’t let that stop you buying a copy. You’ll never see anything cooler than a gauche 1970s Bowie and a 70-something Marlene, who effortlessly steals the film without even being on set.
The Making Of Gigolo with Writer/Producer Joshua Sinclair and Assistant To The Director Rory MacLean.
Audio Commentary with Rory MacLean.