Monthly Archives: November 2017

Film Review: Call Me By Your Name

Film Review: Call Me By Your Name

Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name, adapted from the novel by André Aciman, is a luminous film about sensual awakening and first love. It is, easily, one of the most stunningly beautiful films I have seen this year. Finely drawn performances by Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet insure that Call Me By Your Name will remain in your mind long after you have left the theater.

It is the summer of 1983. Elio Perlman (Chalamet) is a seventeen-year-old American-Italian boy at his parents’ summer home in northern Italy. His father (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a renowned professor of Greco-Roman studies, his mother (Amira Cesar) a translator. Their home is both cultured and academically stimulating, and Elio is clearly advanced for his age intellectually. Emotionally, he still has much to learn.

Professor Perlman looks forward to the arrival of his annual summer intern; Elio does not, as he must give up his room to the new arrival. As it turns out, Oliver (Armie Hammer), the intern, is confident and extremely handsome. Elio is both annoyed and fascinated by him. As the two spend more time together, they become aware of a growing attraction. Both attempt to hide their feelings, but denying the emotion simply makes it stronger.

The real breakout performance in this film that of Timothée Chalamet (Homeland). He does a remarkable job as the academically precocious Elio, who is flummoxed by his first real experiences with love. He knows what-and who-he wants, but also knows the dangers of speaking out about it. What is impressive here is how Chalamat communicates so much through silences and small gestures. If anything, the restraint of his delivery makes us feel his plight more keenly.

Armie Hammer burst onto the scene with The Social Network in 2010, but seemed to have trouble finding comparable roles. He has done good work in indies over the past year (Birth Of A Nation, Nocturnal Animals), but nothing that approaches his performance here. Hammer’s Oliver is brash, though with a gentler side that he takes care to conceal from most people.

Michael Stuhlbarg deserves praise for his understated portrayal of Professor Perlman. So does Esther Garrel, playing a longtime friend of Elio’s who wants to be something more.

In adapting Aciman’s novel, James Ivory has made a few key changes. Ivory has elected to move the story to 1983, whereas the novel takes place in 1987. This is certainly understandable. Having the story take place earlier mitigates the concern about long-term health consequences for Elio. Ivory leaves his focus on the affair between Oliver and Elio, while the novel depicts their lives for an additional twenty years. I think this omission is a good decision. As it is, Call Me By Your Name runs for 132 minutes. A coda would blunt the impact of the final scene without adding much value of its own.

The camerawork by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom (Uncle Boonmee) plays an integral part in the spell cast by this film. It depicts a world where even small details-tables laid out for breakfast, tree branches laden with fruit- are extraordinarily beautiful. In the hands of a lesser cinematographer, the Italian sun might be overwhelming. Mukdeeprom uses it to wonderful effect, setting and enhancing the dreamy mood.

Gary Gershmar and Robin Urdang add to the romance through their musical selections. The score includes works by John Adams, Bach, Ravel, and Satie, as well as two original songs by Sufjan Stevens.

Guadagnino has said he intends Call Me By Your Name to be the final film in a trilogy about love (with I Am Love and A Bigger Splash). In some ways, this third film echoes back to its predecessors. It combines the spectacular beauty of I Am Love with the pensive silences of A Bigger Splash. Then it does these films one better by adding the awkward elation of first love. Call Me By Your Name is a film you cannot help but take to your heart.

Theme: Forbidden Passion

Related Posts: Film Appreciation: Maurice  http://www.thinkingcinema.com/film-appreciation-maurice/

Forbidden Passion: List For Week Ending December 3, 2017  http://www.thinkingcinema.com/forbidden-passion-list-for-week-ending-december-3-2017/

Film Appreciation: Maurice

Film Appreciation: Maurice

James Ivory’s 1987 film Maurice is a lovely, understated film about a gay man struggling to accept his sexuality while the world around him works equally hard to deny it. The story, an adaptation of the novel by E. M. Forster, is set in England just prior to World War I. As a character inContinue Reading

Film Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Film Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Martin McDonagh creates some of the most unlikeable characters you cannot stop watching. His debut film, In Bruges (2008), features a couple of hit men sent to a Belgium town after one of them bungles a job. Things get more complicated-and violent-from there as McDonagh explores themes of vengeance and redemption. The entertaining but derivativeContinue Reading

Film Appreciation: Fargo

Film Appreciation: Fargo

The Coen brothers’ Fargo (1996) is perhaps one of the most upbeat films you will ever see about a brutal kidnapping and murder. It takes an established cinematic format, the police procedural with elements of noir, and then moves us to a new place by adding dark comedy. Naturalistic settings and straightforward visual presentation almostContinue Reading

Crime + Dark Comedy: List For Week Ending November 26, 2017

Crime + Dark Comedy: List For Week Ending November 26, 2017

Our films this week combine crime with dark comedy. Films like this offer a unique take on law and order, typically through strong characterizations (Fargo, The Guard). They also tend to feature highly quotable dialogue (Pulp Fiction, Grosse Pointe Blank) and unforgettable visuals (can anyone forget Roger’s attempt to escape by riding a tractor inContinue Reading

Film Review: Lady Bird

Film Review: Lady Bird

First, let me say that Lady Bird has nothing whatever to do with LBJ’s wife. The name is self-applied by teenaged Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), a high school student facing the challenges of her senior year. Writer/director Greta Gerwig presents many familiar situations but enlivens them with quirky details inspired by her own life. TheContinue Reading

Film Appreciation: Say Anything….

Film Appreciation: Say Anything….

Cameron Crowe’s 1989 directorial debut is an appealing film about a romance between two very different young people living in Seattle. One is a beautiful valedictorian, winner of a fellowship to study in England. The other is more interested in kickboxing than college. In the early scenes, newly graduated Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) tries toContinue Reading

Film Review: The Square

Film Review: The Square

In 2014, Swedish writer/director Ruben Östlund had a great success with Force Majeure. This film portrays a family whose blissful ski vacation is jeopardized by what appears to be a life-threatening avalanche. The husband bolts in panic, leaving his wife to fend for herself and their two children. Although the avalanche turns out to beContinue Reading