American Gigolo (Arrow Blu-ray) – Blu-ray Review

5 Stars Arrow's new 4K restoration of American Gigolo leaves it looking and sounding more alive than ever before.
American Gigolo Blu Ray Review

With a sparkling new 4K restoration, original and remixed sound, and a terrific array of supplements, Arrow Video’s new special edition of American Gigolo leaves it looking and sounding more alive than ever before.

American Gigolo (1980)
Released: 01 Feb 1980
Rated: R
Runtime: 117 min
Director: Paul Schrader
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
Cast: Richard Gere, Lauren Hutton, Hector Elizondo
Writer(s): Paul Schrader
Plot: A Los Angeles escort is accused of a murder which he did not commit.
IMDB rating: 6.3
MetaScore: 57

Disc Information
Studio: Paramount
Distributed By: Arrow
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, English PCM 1.0 (Mono)
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: R
Run Time: 1 Hr. 57 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: Amaray
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 06/18/2024
MSRP: $49.95

The Production: 4.5/5

“He’s the highest paid lover in Beverly Hills. He leaves women feeling more alive than they’ve ever felt before. Except one.”

While released barely over a month into 1980, American Gigolo seems to capture so much of what the decade to come would embody in popular culture. Paul Schrader wrote and directed this neo-noir tinged voyage into the life of male escort Julian Kay, played by Richard Gere. We’re introduced to him riding along the California coast in a black Mercedes on his way to a high-end clothing store. Julian exudes confidence and leaves no doubt whether he’s good at his job, decked out in Armani suits and with perfectly maintained body. A far cry from the life of a hustler in Midnight Cowboy, made a decade earlier. Through some twists and turns after a trick gone wrong, he finds himself framed for murder and without an alibi.

Also starring Lauren Hutton, Bill Duke, and Hector Elizondo, Paul Schrader’s third film as director is probably his best one to that point – even though I found Blue Collar and Hardcore to be almost as brilliant. What I find fascinating about American Gigolo is how it ties into Schrader’s earlier themes of the darker aspects of American capitalism. Julian Kay is somewhat of a cipher of a character, brilliantly portrayed by Richard Gere. You get the sense that his entire person is how he presents himself to others, with his own body being his product. While he’s clearly about to bring pleasure to women, does Kay actually receive any pleasure of his own? Even within his apartment, it’s just stuff he owns, whether it’s expensive watches, records, Warhol art. Schrader takes a deliberate inspiration from the works of Bresson (especially his Pickpocket) and Bertulicci (The Conformist, obviously), as well as 60s Godard, with a scene providing a cheeky homage to A Married Woman. It’s easy to see why Gere shot up in stardom with this film and a few of his subsequent ones, as he captures that raw sexuality that audiences can respond to. Cinema is a hot guy in an Armani suit, lit up in shades of red.

On the technical end, I love the “color noir” look provided by cinematographer John Bailey. One can probably recall the original poster for the film, that captures this aspect. We also get a pulsating, catchy score by Giorgio Moroder, headlined with the opening credits song performed by Blondie, “Call Me.” It’s such a slick-looking and sounding film that captures both the mood of the time, while also feeling sort of timeless in a way. What I found surprising is that compared to his previous film Hardcore, Schrader is a little kinder to some of his characters and doesn’t have the cynical tone of Blue Collar. It’s not surprising this hit a nerve with audiences ($52 million box office on a $5 million budget) and with most critics alike.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

Somehow, I never had a chance to own or even rent the prior digital disc editions of American Gigolo on DVD or Blu-ray. My prior viewings were on satellite TV, maybe about 7-8 years ago. Even with those less-than-optimal conditions, I was struck by how good the film looked. Arrow’s new Blu-ray really shows off John Bailey’s cinematography. There’s a natural level of grain throughout the film, with a bit more during the opening credits and a few opticals. The image is also incredibly steady, as I remembered the version on satellite having quite a lot of gate weave and dupey-looking opticals. The scenes that really shine here are the ones bathed in reds and orange (I can’t imagine how bad some of these shots must have looked on DVD). I spent a lot of time just staring at the detail on Julian’s Armani suits or the way his apartment is lit with stripes of light (right out of classic noir). Some of the darker scenes have increased grain and some exaggerated color, which I assume are part of the intended look.

While some Paramount-affiliated remasters/restorations have been controversial as of late, consider this to be among one of the best-looking discs of the year to my eyes.

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Arrow is also releasing American Gigolo on 4K UHD with Dolby Vision HDR, which I imagine looks even more amazing. Whether you’re not UHD-ready yet or fine with Blu-ray for this film, you’re in for a treat.

Note: I have pre-ordered the 4K UHD limited edition and will update technical details at a later date.

Audio: 5/5

Arrow has included the original monaural mix via a PCM 1.0 track (48Hz/24-bit), plus two remixes in American Gigolo: stereo and 5.1 via DTS-HD MA (also 48Hz/24-bit). I was actually surprised by how great the mono mix sounded, especially the opening and Giorgio Moroder’s score. Stereo opens up the music even more and also gives a bit more depth to the dialogue and effects. The 5.1 mix expands mostly the music. If I had to pick my preferred track, it would be the stereo remix, but the mono mix (which does not appear to be a mixdown) is just as excellent. Those who are fans of Moroder’s score (and music in particular) are really going to enjoy the remixes.

English SDH subtitles are also included.

Special Features: 4.5/5

If the incredible presentation isn’t enough for you, Arrow has produced a wealth of new supplements, including a bunch of new interviews (all HD unless noted).

First off is a new commentary track by Adrian Martin. He begins by admitting that the film was one he reviewed early in his career and not too kindly – yet has re-evaluated it as the classic that it now is. Martin picks apart not just the technical side, such as Schrader’s influences, but also what motivates characters and what could be going on in Julian’s head. I’ve seen Martin’s name pop up on many other releases, but I’m deeply impressed with how engaging he is with his analysis of the film.

Below the Surface (19:37) is an interview with director Paul Schrader. He candidly speaks about the initial casting of John Travolta in the lead role (he dropped out only weeks before filming), bringing on Richard Gere, the influence from Italian cinema and style, and what the film means to him today. As someone who follows Mr. Schrader on Facebook, his sometimes catty attitude is always fun, especially a quite NSFW quote.

The Non-Conformist (25:05) is an interview with camera operator King Baggot. He first goes into his past as the third generation son of film people (his grandfather was an actor and director, father also a camera operator), then the making of the film. At 80 years of age (!), Baggot talks about some of the flourishes he added to the film and what it was like to work under cinematographer John Bailey. A really great interview, especially for those wondering what a camera operator does versus a cinematographer.

American Icon (18:54) is an interview with Professor Jennifer Clark, focusing on the fashion aspect of the film. She covers what style meant at the time and what to expect inside a showroom like Armani or Versace. Clark also goes into what the meaning of different outfits are to Julian’s character and how his exhibitionist aspects are enhanced.

Montages and Monologues (7:15) is an interview with editor Richard Halsey. While brief, he goes into the creative end of working with Schrader and interacting with actors in post-production.

The Business of Pleasure (15:26) is an interview with actor Bill Duke. One of the highlights of the supplements. Duke, a director and writer himself, goes into his own background, his approach to acting, and his working relationship with Schrader and Gere in the role of Leon.

Six Ways to Sunday (10:46) is an interview with actor Hector Elizondo. As with Bill Duke, Elizondo entertainingly speaks candidly about his experience working on the film and how he formed his own character of Detective Sunday.

Man Machine (15:03) is an interview with film music supervisor and DJ Dan Wilcox, discussing the music of Giorgio Moroder and his score for American Gigolo. It’s a bit more of an appreciation of Moroder in general, but any excuse to gush over that pulsating score is fine with me.

The theatrical trailer (1:56) is included.

There’s also three image galleries for production photos, lobby cards, and posters.

Note: This is a screener that I evaluated, but I will amend the review once I receive my 4K UHD edition in terms of packaging and printed supplements.

Overall: 5/5

American Gigolo is one of the defining films of the 1980s, with a star-making role for Richard Gere, and tightly directed by Paul Schrader. I can’t recommend this release enough for both fans of the film and those just interested… well, for a good time.

 

Current Home Theater setup (as of 01/2019):

Monitor:
Samsung 60" LED 4K UHD (UN60J7090)

Players:
Primary - Sony UBP-X700 UltraHD Player
Secondary - Sony BDP-S5500 Blu-ray 3D Player (all region modded)

Sound:
VIZIO 5.1 Soundbar SB-3851C0

Other Players:
PS3
Apple TV (4th generation)

3-D Glasses:
Samsung Active Shutter (4x)

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titch

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Nov 7, 2012
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Kevin Oppegaard
Now that's a great review! I made this release my first EVER order from the US Arrow Films website - preordered months ago - because I wanted the original poster artwork, instead of the utterly atrocious cover art Arrow have selected for the hoi polloi (in my view, on par with the US Exorcist 4K UHD cover). But: it's "delayed", according to an email they sent out today. Of course, it sold out, as everyone else wanted it! So I'll just have to wait, while they do another print run, to honour their pre-orders.
 

cineMANIAC

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Luis
I ordered the Arrow webstore exclusive. Just got a notification that they encountered a "payment issue" and they need me to "Resolve" it. Not sure what to resolve since I used Paypal. I don't want to end up paying twice for this. It was a blind buy.
 

Patrick McCart

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8,254
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Northern Virginia
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Patrick McCart
Now that's a great review! I made this release my first EVER order from the US Arrow Films website - preordered months ago - because I wanted the original poster artwork, instead of the utterly atrocious cover art Arrow have selected for the hoi polloi (in my view, on par with the US Exorcist 4K UHD cover). But: it's "delayed", according to an email they sent out today. Of course, it sold out, as everyone else wanted it! So I'll just have to wait, while they do another print run, to honour their pre-orders.
I'm actually waiting for my 4K via Diabolik. I don't mind the new artwork since I like to switch to reverse covers on the case. It's fun on the Argento 4Ks since there's new art on the slipcase, while the wrap is the Italian poster.

For that matter, main reason I ordered the limited edition is that I want to frame the foldout poster.
 

Indy Guy

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Apr 19, 2012
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Tony Baxter
Just received my copy today. I also got "a problem with my payment" notification(?) I will have to look carefully at the monthly billing to make sure there is no double charge.
 

titch

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Joined
Nov 7, 2012
Messages
2,436
Real Name
Kevin Oppegaard
Arrow Video US have obviously messed things up with the preorders for the webstore exclusive release. I also received the "payment issue" as well. But I entered my credit card details again and they sent it off the next day. Not sure how long shipping takes from the US to Norway, as this is the first time I've ordered from them. Shipping from the UK site takes a week.
 
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