Movie of the month – Call Me by Your Name

a review by Kristians Fukss

A summer love story, the most passionate film of 2017, one of the front runners in the upcoming Oscar race – it is the newest instalment in the Desire trilogy, following I am Love (2009) and A Bigger Splash (2015), by Italian film director Luca Guadagnino.

This glorious love story set in the hottest days of 1993 is based on the novel by the same name by Andre Aciman, telling a sensual story about Elio (Timothée Chalamet), a 17-year-old boy, his long summer days with family in 17th century lakeside villa and the arrival of an annual summer intern Oliver (Armie Hammer), an American college graduate student, working on his doctorate. Together they discover love that they had never felt before.

The first time I saw the film was at Riga International Film Festival back in September. It premiered at Sundance Film Festival on January 22, that’s why I was happily surprised that I will have a chance to see it earlier in Latvia because it is mainly set for an early 2018 release. The first time seeing it was a cinematic journey, the strong emotions was something that touched me more that I had expected, something similar to the effect of the Oscar winning Brokeback Mountain (2005) and Heath Ledger’s performance. The sophisticated sensuality shown throughout the film is unique.

An excellent work from James Ivory, who adapted the novel, has the producer credit and originally had intended to co-direct the film. Luca Guadagnino himself first declined to direct the film but to be a location consultant to “help put film together from the Italian side”, as he is from Cremona (province in northern Italy). Then he decided to co-direct it with Ivory but in early 2016 Ivory stepped down from directing to avoid conflicts, leaving Luca as the director.
As he was revising Ivory’s draft of the script, Guadagnino removed a big amount of nudity, which was one of the many things that made it special – Luca didn’t focus on homophobia or sexual parts in Elio’s and Oliver’s love, he mainly focused on infatuation and affection between the two.
“This is a movie about a family, compassion, transmission of knowledge, of being better people because someone’s otherness changes you.” – Luca said in an interview for the Guardian. As the hottest moments are approaching, Luca’s camera slides from the bed, through the window into the hot summer night but passion stays, it stays more than ever. It looks like Guadagnino has taken care of everything. The cinematography, which brought Sayombhu Mukdeeprom international acclaim and several awards, makes us dream about the hot Italian nights.
 
Mr. Perlman – Elio’s dad played by Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man) triumphs as a supporting actor for his overwhelming speech advising Elio not to drown in the pain. ”Right now, there's sorrow, pain. Don't kill it and with it the joy you've felt,” the consolation that he gives is splendid and comforting enough to mesmerize. American singer Frank Ocean, after watching the film, shared on his Tumblr: “Michael Stuhlbarg is my new dad now and that’s that.”
The soundtrack by Sufjan Stevens made me feel Elio’s sorrow and happiness as my own, it’s full of beautiful classical music, ‘80s pop and Sufjan’s own songs, that translates the electricity of the main lovers worlds colliding into music. It has an international and devoted, sensual feel. The 80s pop singles that blasts from speakers at the bars and dance parties serves more as secondary meaning to the film. The real magic is brought from Sufjan’s own songs – two written for the motion picture and a piano version of his 2010 album Age of Adz track Futile Devices. As his song Mystery of Love by starts with “Oh, to see without my eyes, the first time that you kissed me”, Visions of Gideon – the film’s ending number, also by Sufjan Stevens, ends with “I have loved you for the last time”.
Will the wonders ever cease? Is the question that Sufjan presents to us.

(the official soundtrack playlist)

A possible sequel is in the works, based on the last 40 pages of the novel depicting 20 years in the life as they aged. Hammer and Chalamet have both expressed interest in participating in a sequel but before that Luca Guadagnino is working on a remake of Dario Argento’s horror film Suspiria (1977). Regardless the sequels, Call Me by Your Name has been critically praised, receiving a ten minute standing ovation at New York Film Festival, the longest recorded in the festival history, also Chalamet’s performance and Guadagnino’s direction has been highly praised, positively compared to best picture winner Moonlight (2016).

Call Me by Your Name is going to remain as one of the best films of 2017, my personal favourite and a modern gay classic, although the director has said that it is family oriented for the purpose of knowledge transmission and hoping that people of different generations come to see the film together.

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