A Trio of Men on the Margins

This week, on the Criterion Channel, our program Three Hustlers makes its premiere, bringing together a trio of envelope-pushing tales of men living on the edge of society. A pioneer in the cinematic depiction of taboo forms of male sexuality, Rainer Werner Fassbinder courted no small amount of controversy with Fox and His Friends (1975), whose ingenuous working-class-hustler protagonist (Fassbinder himself) gets mercilessly exploited by his new boyfriend’s bourgeois social circle. Meanwhile, Paul Schrader’s stylishly atmospheric American Gigolo (1980)—a tale of sin and redemption strongly influenced by Robert Bresson, one of the director’s cinematic idols—stars Richard Gere as a high-priced escort who finds himself in a similarly tight spot, as he falls for a politician’s wife, and winds up suspected of murder. The third and final piece of this triptych is Gus Van Sant’s grittily romantic debut feature, the black-and-white New Queer Cinema precursor Mala Noche (1985), which follows a Portland, Oregon, deadbeat who’s lusting after a young Mexican immigrant. As the teaser above goes to show, you won’t want to miss this seductive, seedy triple feature.

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