Paul Schrader's protagonists have always walked the Earth in a state of unease, so it is indeed cruel and unusual one of these wretched creatures should be "reimagined" with superfluous complexity.
New Showtime series American Gigolo, now streaming on Stan, brings us an updated version of Julian Kay - the male escort first played by Richard Gere in Schrader's seminal 1980 film of the same name.
Unfortunately, by adding an 'e' to his surname, robbing his Armani coffin and reanimating his balletic physique with jolts of renewable 2022 electricity, Julian has lost the spark which made him the smarmy, vacuous personification of an entire decade to come.
The beauty of screenwriter/director Schrader's characters - particularly those of his "lonely man and his room" trilogy is they are just there; they exist, they struggle and they are gone.
Should someone ever feel the need to reimagine Taxi Driver and include detailed exposition about young Travis's fascination with native American hair-dos, it's a fair assumption he would lose a good percentage of mystique, not to mention menace.
Are you talking to me?
Maybe because Julian is so hard to pin down, the creators of the new American Gigolo thought him ripe for the dreaded creative overhaul?
Compared with other Schrader sadsacks, Julian is a pretty happy hooker. Nineteen-eighty Julian zips around sun-drenched LA in his black Mercedes 450 SL, 1980 Julian sings along with Smokey Robinson as he lovingly lays one splendid brown/grey jacket-shirt-tie ensemble after another out on his bed in the Westwood Hotel Apartments. Nineteen-eighty Julian sleeps with mature, wealthy women for money; he accompanies them to antique shops, he makes them laugh and doesn't seem particularly troubled by his questionable station in life.
It's only when Julian begins to fall for Lauren Hutton and makes the rookie error of getting framed for the murder of a Palm Springs client does he begin to take on the good old Schrader gloom and the neon turns to noir.
But in the new American Gigolo, 2022 Julian comes with gloom included in the box thanks to 15 years in the big house for a crime he didn't commit and a trailer trash childhood featuring an enterprising mum who sold her teenage son to the flesh trade.
Granted, it's not all bad. Rosie O'Donnell does a great job as a hard-boiled cop, Blondie is still urging us to Call Me, and the Merc has been traded in for a Jag, but Jon Bernthal's incarnation of Julian Kaye smoulders whereas Gere's smirked, which was always the point, as America headed down the path of blithe commercial sex, self-obsession, and consumerism.
Adding to this, the non-descript landscape of 21st-century Los Angeles simply can't compete with the stylised city of 42 years ago as curated by Schrader's production designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti.
And therein lies the rub of the reimagined; as well as inviting inevitable comparisons with its template, the practice invariably invites the existential why?
As opposed to the reboot or the remake, the reimagination is really just cherry-picking bits you like from the original and making changes where you clearly thought improvement was needed.
The resulting Frankenstein's monster is seldom the full quid and often ersatz, ugly and sad.
Given its vast catalogue of content, Disney, for example, will be reimagining its reimaginings for decades to come as one generation finds a more palatable way to recast morality tales about wooden children and dogs with spots.
And while sitting at the classier end of the do-over spectrum, Showtime's American Gigolo still makes you wonder what original content went begging for the sake of retelling a story already perfectly adequately told?
Providers of startling originality such as industry grafter Paul Schrader know only too well how difficult it is to score a slot in a marketplace saturated with remakes and sequels and prequels to satisfy audiences with insatiable appetites for sameness.
Mind you, Schrader has done his share of grave-robbing, too.
His Cat People of 1982 was a reworked version of the 1942 original and for the final frame of his American Gigolo (and Light Sleeper), Schrader proudly rips off Robert Bresson's 1959 classic Pickpocket.
Let's call it homage.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.