Picks and Pans Review: Just a Gigolo

updated 06/08/1981 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/08/1981 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Completed and released abroad in 1978, this drama of post-World War I Germany is probably being issued here now to capitalize on the presence of rocker-turned-actor David Bowie. As he showed in 1976's The Man Who Fell to Earth, Bowie can spark the dimmest of movies—and things are pretty murky here. Bowie is cast as an idealistic Prussian soldier who sees his values crumble amid the rise of Nazism. In love with vivacious Sydne Rome, a Sally Bowles-type club singer, he wants marriage and kids. She wants sex and success. Director David Hemmings seems never to have heard of Cabaret. He presents the obvious with a sense of real discovery. Worse, Joshua Sinclair's screenplay brims with such blather as: "There comes a time in every man's life when he stops making the same mistake as Napoleon." Huh? But Bowie, who turns from martinet to paid escort, is the most stylish sight onscreen these days. He's a hoot with aging widow Kim Novak, but it's not until a veiled, almost immobile Marlene Dietrich appears that the film shows any fire. Now 76, she is heartbreaking as she torches the title song to a defeated Bowie. Dietrich and Bowie, 34, are cut from the same star cloth. Even in this zircon of a movie, they gleam like diamonds. (R)

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