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MGLFF Gala Screening: The Walker
Colony Theatre, Miami Beach, Fl
by Mark Thompson & Robert Doyle
December 10, 2007
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Film screenings have several purposes: often the screening benefits a good cause, and usually there’s an after-party (frequently with open bar, and hopefully munchies, if not a sit-down dinner), and best of all, you get to trump your friends, saying, “I already caught that—at a screening.”  As for the quality of the film itself, cross your fingers.  Sometimes the best that can be said is that at least the audience didn’t toss popcorn at the screen.  Such was the case at the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival’s screening of The Walker, where even after only ten minutes of Woody Harrelson’s egregious Southern drawl, most members of the audience seemed as desirous as we were of moving on to the open bar—I mean, after-party. 

The latest addition to Paul Schrader’s “night worker” oeuvre (comprising his screenplay for Taxi Driver, as well as his direction of 1980’s American Gigolo and 1992’s Light Sleeper), The Walker positions another of Schrader’s male “misfits” in a culture which threatens to eat him whole—but unlike the mesmerizing Gere in Gigolo or DeNiro in Taxi Driver, Woody Harrelson’s Carter Page III seems closer to Woody in Toy Story: he’s wooden and unreal.  His depiction of a gay man appears to have lifted from an unpublished Truman Capote novella.  That accent—heavens!  As if he were just learning to speak again after a near-fatal accident. 

In early February 1980, American Gigolo was released.  It was not the first film about sex workers, but it was certainly the biggest film with the most buzz about sex workers who were male.  In San Francisco, where I was living, the opening night lines circled the block.  Richard Gere was fresh off the success of his moody triumphs in Looking for Mr. Goodbar and Days of Heaven.  The soundtrack was by disco wiz Giorgio Moroder, with Deborah Harry of Blondie singing “Call Me”—and the costumes by a little-known Italian designer by the name of Giorgio Armani.  And on that chilly San Francisco night, the boys had come out in droves—wearing their  individualized versions of that iconic film poster of a slouchy Gere with his soft-shouldered Armani blazer.  Everyone wanted to be a hustler that night. 

Schrader’s Gigolo was probably a watershed moment in the legitimization of the sex worker, and pornography, industry in American society.  Alas, no cultural moment seems destined to be captured in Schrader’s latest work. 

And so on to the after-party at Angler’s Resort, which, interestingly enough is located on a section of Washington Avenue once better known for sex workers than boutique resorts.  The new owners are committed to cleaning up the neighborhood (which should be joy to the ears of the owners of the Astor Hotel, the lone redoubt of chi-chi digs in a nabe customarily assaulted by night’s more colorful characters) and, to their credit, the restaurant Maison d’Azur is already bringing a bit of the French Riviera to a strip of Washington more accustomed to looking like the seedier parts of Marseilles.  The sleek interior design has been done by J. Wallace Tutt, the eye behind Versace’s Casa Casuarina on Ocean, and at the after-party, the brand-new Pool House, with its triplex villas, had been commissioned to serve as one of the party’s bars—with a bartender named Ariel who brought Richard Gere’s Julian Kaye right back to mind.  Which only goes to prove: good things do come around again, even if in slightly different forms. 

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