What do women want, as Freud famously asked?
Women "want a guy who's not a pretty guy -- I think there's an appetite for that, believe it or not," Turturro, the fading gigolo in his film, told the audience after its Washington Jewish Film Festival (WJFF) screening.
In the film, what two women want is a threesome. Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara want a menage á trois, and ask Woody Allen to find the third party. Woody (Murray) gets his florist pal Turturro (Fioravante) to comply. "You want to turn me into a ho?" asks the florist.
When the flo-ho meets Vergara (Selima), she asks, "Do you have any idea what goes on inside of a woman's head?"
Fioravante responds, "If I did, I wouldn't be here."
However, Turturro, in his film and in his comments here, shows that he has quite a clear idea.
Women also want to be touched, tenderly and gently. This is illustrated in one of the film's most moving sequences, featuring its standout, Vanessa Paradis. The French actress-singer exquisitely portrays Avigal, a Hasidic widow. She has six children, but her late husband had never touched her intimately or softly.
"There's nothing stronger than gentleness," Turturro noted. (No spoilers -- the film opens in April.)
The film became "more delicate especially the more Vanessa was involved...She has an innate grace and empathy," Turturro said. "People in the movie gravitated toward her...everyone was riveted. It's rare to see a performance with someone that good."
On the not-so-gentle, much less delicate side, was Stone as the dermatologist who enlists Allen as procurer for a threesome, and then auditions Turturro "like an out-of-town tryout". She critiques him as "You're top shelf, hard to reach -- that's what makes you so good." (Speak for yourself, star of "Basic Instinct".)
Women may or may not want a threesome. But Hollywood certainly did. Show me the money?
"You're a prostitute; Woody's a pimp; and there's a threesome ... For getting the money that's the C story, but they think it's THE story," the filmmaker said.
(It all began when Turturro shared that initial idea with his hair cutter, who also cuts Woody Allen's hair, and the barber/stylist shared it with Allen. "Woody told him to call me," Turturro explained. "If you have a good hair cutter, it's very important.")
The filmmaker opened and closed the screening by saying, "I hope audiences will receive the film in the spirit it's made."
Turturro, best known for his roles in films by Spike Lee and by the Coen brothers, last appeared here also for the Washington Jewish Film Festival in connection with "The Truce" (1997). Turturro was involved with making that film and starring in it as Primo Levi. "The Truce" is based on the three-volume autobiography of Levi, a writer and chemist who survived Auschwitz.
Turturro was interviewed by WJLA-TV/ABC7 film reviewer Arch Campbell after the sneak peek. Campbell doffed his traditional fedora that he privately termed his "Episcopalian yarmulke".
The Washington Jewish Film Festival, Feb. 27 through Mar.9, screened 64 films from 18 countries. Most of the 80 screenings included discussions with guest filmmakers and subject experts. Other talks with filmmakers and special guests plus clips were held, free, at the Library of Congress.