NYFF 2017: Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name

On Film / The Daily — Oct 3, 2017

In the print edition of the current issue of Film Comment, we find Luca Guadagnino saying that “the true generator of the movies I try to make is Jean Renoir, and A Day in the Country is really the alpha and omega of Call Me by Your Name. Because Call Me by Your Name is about the definition of knowledge, how the bonds within a family have the capacity to create an invisible ribbon that unifies people and makes them become, and grow.”

This is “Guadagnino’s most mature, affecting, and intellectually rigorous work to date,” argues Angelo Muredda in Cinema Scope. “Taking inspiration from any number of works about beautiful European youths with good style and hearts full of longing—most explicitly Proust, as well as Maurice Pialat’s À nos amours—Guadagnino’s film drops us ‘somewhere in Northern Italy’ in 1983, where 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) is lounging at his parents’ villa just as a summer apprenticeship reels in the improbably handsome American grad student Oliver (Armie Hammer) to study with Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg). Brash in his villa small talk and quintessentially American in his big, sloppy appetite, Oliver turns out to be more circumspect when it comes to what he wants from Elio, with whom he forms a teasing fraternal friendship that deepens into something more substantial and dangerous.”

Filmmaker’s Vadim Rizov:

Formerly, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s regular DP, Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, took a detour to shoot Miguel Gomes’s Arabian Nights films, and is apparently going to keep roaming the globe for a while. Shooting sunny summer Italy is a natural fit for his strengths, all verdant greens and non-smothering sunshine; it looks very much like his previous work. The James Ivory screenplay, adapted from André Aciman’s novel, makes a number of good decisions that don’t overplay any motif: the low-key anxiety of Jewishness isn’t overegged, the transgressive romance’s potential consequences not overstated for purposes of potential tragedy. Not everything has to be symbolic or freighted with plot-point meaning, which is a nice change of pace: the ancient statues Oliver looks at speak to sublimated homoerotics, but, really, they’re just material objects. At 130 minutes, the film has time to let summer sit and take its spell: a romance isn’t really even hinted at until something like an hour in. If the film has a potential fault, it’s that every single person in it acts with uncommon decency—no one ever acts or reacts with anything but the most benevolent and compassionate of motives—but I’m inclined to let the utopian vibes take over. The film is romantic in a very classical sense, and the spell works.

“Guadagnino’s work doesn’t center on repressed feelings, or homophobia, or even secrecy,” adds Bilge Ebiri in the Village Voice. “The two find their feelings hard to hide, and as their situation comes to the attention of their friends and family, they discover a kind of acceptance, even something approaching solidarity.”

“Chalamet is the revelation,” declares Alex Frank, also in the Voice. “The skinny 21-year-old born-and-raised New Yorker is a subtle if eye-catching presence in his previous work, including as the young son of Matthew McConaughey’s character in 2015’s Interstellar. Here, he is the heart and soul. ‘We had a lunch together a few years ago and this young man was so vivid that I was immediately attracted by him,’ says Guadagnino. ‘Young people have a capacity of wonderment that I am really drawn to. I like wonderment. I wasn’t thinking, “Can he act or not?” I was more thinking, “This is the embodiment of Elio.”’”

For more reviews, see Critics Round Up, where James Kang has been tracking them since the film’s premiere at Sundance. For 4:3, Phoebe Chen talks with Guadagnino about “his most successful entwinement of story and sensation.” And Time Out’s Joshua Rothkopf talks with Stuhlbarg, whose “climactic monologue (the stuff of which Oscars are made of) is the fall’s greatest cinematic gift.”

Update: “The three films that make up Luca Guadagnino’s self-described ‘Desire’ trilogy all in some way organize their narratives around music,” writes Sam C. Mac at Slant. “The Italian filmmaker relied on borrowed works from modern classical composer John Adams to determine the ebbing dramatic tension of 2009’s I Am Love, while 2015’s A Bigger Splash, which centers on the relationship between a fictional rock singer and her mercurial former lover and record producer, climaxes with an electric, lip-syncing performance of the Rolling Stones’s ‘Emotional Rescue.’ But it's the trilogy-capping romance Call Me by Your Name that most deeply connects this filmmaker's abiding interest in music to a broader theme of the salvation found in the meditative power of the arts.”

Updates, 10/5: Call Me is “easily its director’s best work, and probably good enough to change the minds of those who’d previously written him off as a flashy, pushy wannabe à la Paolo Sorrentino,” writes Adam Nayman for Reverse Shot. Guadagnino and Ivory “have produced a film that simultaneously analyzes and dramatizes issues of sexuality, religious identity, and, once again, privilege—with enough well-read bourgeois lazing about in the sun to give Michael Haneke hives—and yet without straining against its clearly marked narrative boundaries as a coming-of-age romance, or exploding its form as an accessible, fundamentally pleasing upper-middlebrow entertainment.”

“If Merchant/Ivory films, such as the gay love story Maurice and the post-war drama The Remains of the Day, are just as much about mannered people and the surfaces they hide behind,” writes Kyle Turner for Paste, “those films are willing to dig to find the full-throated danger and elation of making contact. Take for instance, in the latter Kazuo Ishiguro adaptation, when aging butler Mr. James Stevens (Anthony Hopkins) and Miss Sally Kenton (Emma Thompson) are just millimeters apart from one another. They’re lit only by candle, the camera willing to invade that space to find the trembling eros in the dark. Call Me by Your Name almost never takes that risk, and almost never gets that close to its characters.”

Ryan Gilbey profiles Hammer for the Guardian.

Updates, 10/7: Writing for Brooklyn Magazine, Jesse Hassenger zeroes in on “Guadagnino’s strategy in illustrating the strange and fuzzy boundaries between adults and kids, between playful teenage flirting and adult passion. Even his editing style mimics the slow-then-fast rhythms of approaching adulthood: Many scenes proceed languidly, then get ruthlessly curtailed mid-action, snapped into place with a cut.” But “it’s never quite as subtle as the filmmakers seem to assume. The characters speak with a kind of off-kilter presumptuousness, which leads to an odd, sometimes awkward paradox—a movie that has a lot of dialogue about what’s going unspoken.”

“Certainly in my screenplay there was all sorts of nudity,” James Ivory tells Variety’s Nick Vivarelli. “But according to Luca, both actors had it in their contract that there would be no frontal nudity, and there isn’t, which I think is kind of a pity. Again, it’s just this American attitude. Nobody seems to care that much, or be shocked, about a totally naked woman. It’s the men. This is something that must be so deeply cultural that one should ask: ‘Why?’”

Update, 10/14: “A gorgeous evocation of youth, both sensitive and sensual, Call Me By Your Name is a knock-you-on-your-ass reminder of how our hearts used to behave,” writes Soheil Rezayazdi for Filmmaker. “Stay for the end credits.”

Updates, 10/16: “Reminiscent of Eric Rohmer’s treatment of the suspension of time during summer days, and evenings that boil over with sensuality, the film finds Guadagnino giving in to a freer treatment of the image, beautifully balanced by cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom in Renoir-like golden shades,” writes Susana Bessa for photogénie. “In comparison with the filmmaker’s previous usage of lavish formal elements in his films—the neo-baroque austere framing of I Am Love a clear example of that—Call Me By Your Name is bluntly fluid, its narrative’s simplicity giving itself completely to the bleached coloring of the reverie the film is lodged into.”

“Guadagnino is planning a sequel to Call Me by Your Name, which would be set seven years after the events depicted in his acclaimed adaptation,” reports Kaleem Aftab for Screen. ‘I want to do a sequel because Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel—they are all gems,’ said Guadagnino during a sit-down at the BFI London Film Festival, where Call Me by Your Name played as a gala. ‘The texture we built together is very consistent. We created a place in which you believe in the world before them. They are young but they are growing up.’”

Updates, 10/26: “Ivory’s presence inevitably calls to mind his film version of E. M. Forster’s Maurice, to which this is frankly superior,” writes the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw. “For me, it brought back Alan Hollinghurst novels such as The Folding Star and The Spell. Call Me by Your Name is an erotic pastoral that culminates in a quite amazing speech by Michael Stuhlbarg, playing the boy’s father. It’s a compelling dramatic gesture of wisdom, understanding and what I can only call moral goodness.”

Adam Woodward talks with Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet for Little White Lies.

Update, 10/27: “Timothée Chalamet is sensational,” finds Catherine Wheatley, writing for Sight & Sound: “fierce and articulate, his hooded eyes flickering with secret thoughts. He looks a little like Melvil Poupaud or Louis Garrel (whose sister Esther coincidentally stars as Marzia), but he has a purposefulness they lack.”

Update, 10/30: “Hammer,” writes Wendy Ide for the Observer, “while technically a little mature for the role, captures the gilded alpha male certainty that makes Oliver so attractive; the casually decisive way that he moves through the world unsettles Elio. And Chalamet, with his restless, impatient physicality and a face as sensual and sculpted as a fallen angel from a Caravaggio painting, is quite simply astonishing. The final scene of the film—the camera rests on Elio’s face in the foreground as he processes his heartbreak—is first love encapsulated in one, sumptuously sad, single shot.”

Update, 11/3: “In the brief annals of mainstream queer cinema, Call Me by Your Name falls in line with Moonlight in taking a resolutely non-hysterical, non-polemical approach to homoeroticism, treating sexual encounters with a kind of unhurried, tactile sensuality,” writes Molly Haskell in Film Comment.Call Me by Your Name is more invitingly heartfelt and less baroque than the director’s previous films, and skillfully captures both the languor of the summer mood, as time stretches into boredom, and the simultaneous feel of time closing in, of the possibility of missed opportunities, hanging like overripe fruit at the end of a branch.”

Update, 11/6: Here in the Current, Hillary Weston talks with Guadagnino “about inspirations, style, and dancing, among other things.”

Update, 11/12: AFI Fest gets a few words with Chalamet: “I would do anything to work with Luca again. I’d be a boom operator on one of his films.”

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