A colorful, lush, pulpy flick, Gigola (released in 2010 in Europe) is a sensuous dive into the 1960s underground lesbian scene of Paris, by way of cabaret and high camp. It’s beautifully crafted in every way, often confusing, and incredibly sexy. Director Laure Charpentier has adapted Gigola from her own novels, with an attention to detail and love for the characters that oozes from every scene.
In the first moments of the film, we watch Georgine (Lou Doillon)’s initiation into the lesbian underground, as her lover (and school headmistress) cuts her hair short and teaches her a thing or two about forbidden love. Immediately after, we watch a slightly older Georgine (now Gigola) say goodbye to her medical school classmates and take off from the straight and narrow path. Her lover has taken her own life, and Gigola is ready for a change.
Almost immediately, we’re swept off to a swinging show at a darkened club, where we get our first look at Gigola as she is now. She styles herself a female gigalo, a sexy, cross-dressing “creature of the night” who works out of a cabaret that caters to wealthy lesbians looking for a good time and a gender-bending escort. She bides her time throwing smoldering looks around, drinking, smoking and taking older women out on hot dates for huge sums of cash.
She also participates in a little pimping herself, carrying a signature silver cane (which she also uses, on occasion, to pleasure her patrons), and “buying” a woman (Cora) off of Tony, a sly Italian gangster who seems to have a bit of a thing for our Gigola as well.
Gigola is good – very good – at what she does, and she enjoys enormous wealth. In fact, she considers the other queer women around her “family” and helps them with the rent when the going gets tough. She dresses stylishly, drinks the expensive stuff, and generally comports herself like a queer James Bond – even brandishing a gun when need be. She’s a walking, talking lesbian fantasy in a skinny suit, a sexpot and master of other women’s pleasure at the same time.
Not all is well for our heroine, however – she has issues at home. Her father is a drug addict with a gambling problem, and her mother simply prays all day and gives in to his every wish. When word comes that mom may be losing the family home over dad’s hardships, Gigola takes action.
It’s clear from her scenes with family that this strong, independent woman got most of her tricks from her headmistress, not her parents, but she still loves her mother and craves her acceptance, even when she refuses to play nice and be a “traditional” girl. She’s a badass through and through, but she also has that prototypical “heart of gold.”
Gigola has many lovers over the course of the movie, each of which brings its own fascinating power dynamic. With her older “mama,” she is a sugar baby and a sex machine, but she also refuses to give in to every whim. With Cora, she plays a more masculine power role, playing out her own fantasies – and even taking her “pimp” role to a violent extreme. A few scenes do spill into actual sexual violence, be forewarned if this is something you don’t care to watch.
The events ramble along a bit, presenting scenarios that play with gender roles and power fantasies, with ill-defined relationships, sexual encounters and shifting alliances popping up at every turn. When Gigola finds herself entangled with Tony the likeable mobster – in more ways than one – things get a bit confusing. It’s less a plot-driven film than a character study and an exercise in wish fulfillment – keeping track of what/who Gigola is doing at any given moment feels like missing the point.
The love scenes are copious and rendered with near (but not quite) pornographic detail. The whole film is beautifully shot, but it’s in the slow, simmering, soft-focus lovefests that it truly shines. In each and every one, Gigola is at the top of her game, a total lesbian lothario, pleasuring every lady she pleases while soft-core-sounding music bellows in the background.
The outfits in the film deserve an award – this is, hands-down, the most fashionable lesbian film in the history of cinema. Not only is Gigola looking absolutely fine in her tailored suits and sixties hats, but the entire cast is dressed beautifully enough to send Mad Men’s wardrobe department into jealous fits. The characters are beautiful (and wonderfully varied in terms of gender identity), the fashion is smoking, the cars are swanky, and the scenery – in photogenic Paris – is breath taking.
The same can be said for the music. Underscoring nearly every scene is a jazzy mixture of swinging ’60s instrumentals, and there are countless song and dance numbers set in the cabaret, including a hummable ode to Gigola that returns as a theme later on. It’s incredibly – and utterly unapologetically – campy and fun, especially when the act involves self-referential lyrics or semi-naughty stripping.
If you have a thing for all things 1960s and oh-so-French, or you fancy a romp through the fantasy life of a hyper-empowered, ultra-stylish proto sex worker, or if you simply like to look at attractive, gender-bending ladies in suits, Gigola was made to order for you. It doesn’t always make a ton of sense, but it’s one hell of an enjoyable ride regardless.
Watch the trailer below: