I have only seen American Gigolo a couple of times in my life, but I've watched this scene way more than that - dozens and dozens of times have I beheld the wonder of Richard Gere hanging from the rafters doing his skimpy-shorted work-out routine.
So why did I never notice he did his skimpy-shorted
work-out routine in front of shelves until now?
Well I suppose the answer is there in the question
- I only had eyes for the skimpy shorts, of course.
But once I saw the shelves there was no going back. The shelves in Julian's apartment actually play an important role in the plot of the film - they have their own arc!
Perhaps not as important an arc to the film's success as the arch of Richard Gere's backside, I'll grant you that. But an arc nonetheless.
Julian's pad (as with everything Julian touches) represents the dream of 1980 bachelor-hood. He looks GQ appointed in every outfit he wears, he's got all the gadgets, he fucks every woman in sight. (And maybe a few men it's implied, and since this was pre-AIDS that wasn't so bad). This place was the Platonic Ideal of male singledom.
The stereo system in particular is fetishized - all the better to groove to all the Blondie via Giorgio Moroder tracks. But then...
... a dame's gotta go and get in the way! Lauren Hutton's politician's wife Michelle immediately inserts herself in front of His Shit - you gotta choose, bucko.
After Julian and Michelle sleep together the first time she's woken up to him cooing on the telephone to a client and what do you suppose they are talking about?
They're talking about his boner. But specifically they're talking about his boner in relation to his stereo system, and how he wants the woman on the phone to help him upgrade it. Subtle, it ain't. Michelle later offers to pay for his stereo herself, but he doesn't want that - he wants her to fuck (these two talking about "fucking" a whole lot, using that word - lord knows I'm as vulgar as they come but it's kind of weird and off-putting the way they do it) for himself, for pleasure, not for stereo equipment.
There's your first mistake, buddy! later on the two argue in front of the shelves - once again he's isolated in the frame while she's inserted among them. Your shit ain't your shit no more, Jules. he tries to reclaim his space, his manhood, for a moment here...
... but she gets the better of him again.
It should be noted that the vertical blinds in this film are off the charts but nowhere are they better used than this scene, where we cut from the above shot...
... directly to a prison environment. As Debbie Harry sings in "Rapture" he's through with eating cars he's eating bars, wall to wall, door to door, hall to hall, he's gonna eat 'em all. The bars of the vertical blinds, the bars of the prison cell, and the gay bars where he talks tricks...