Fading Gigolo and cinema’s love affair with prostitutes

In the first episode of Flashback, a series featuring filmmakers in conversation, Alison Bailes talks to John Turturro about films that inspired Fading Gigolo.

The oldest profession is also one of cinema’s oldest subjects. Actor-director John Turturro plays a man who has sex with women for money in his new film Fading Gigolo – with Woody Allen as his neurotic pimp. Turturro’s film is the latest in a long history of films about prostitution, from silent-era melodramas to the present.

The issue crops up in films as diverse as social realist Chinese drama The Goddess (1934), Frank Capra movies (It’s a Wonderful Life’s tragic Violet), European art house cinema (Luis Buñuel’s Belle de Jour and Jean-Luc Godard’s Two or Three Things I Know About Her), and Hollywood romantic comedies such as Pretty Woman.

In the debut instalment of BBC Culture’s new video series, Flashback, Turturro discusses the cinematic inspirations that fed into Fading Gigolo and the role of prostitution throughout film history. He tells Alison Bailes about particular films that influenced his vision, such as Federico Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria, Kenji Mizoguchi’s The Life of Oharu and John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy.

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(Saul Leiter photographs provided courtesy of © Saul Leiter Estate/Howard Greenberg Gallery)