The Films of Luca Guadagnino
I Am Love (January 17/11)
I Am Love is a frustratingly uneven bit of over-the-top filmmaking that never quite becomes the enthralling drama that one might've expected, as director Luca Guadagnino has infused the movie with an oppressively deliberate pace that ultimately (and perhaps inevitably) renders its positive attributes moot. The film, which follows Tilda Swinton's Emma Recchi as she embarks on a torrid affair with her son's best friend, begins with a fair amount of promise, however, with the lengthy dinner party that kicks off the proceedings progressing from banal to strangely fascinating - as Guadagnino stresses the compelling behind-the-scenes efforts of the various servants responsible for sustaining the opulent gathering. It's only as I Am Love segues into its narrative proper that one's interest begins to flag, as the movie slowly-but-surely morphs into a rather routine European drama revolving around infidelity (complete with a tragic death) - albeit one that boasts an unusually lush sense of style. The familiarity of the narrative - coupled with an aggressively slow pace - ensures that the movie becomes more and more tedious as it progresses, while the impressively conceived yet thoroughly baffling finale is sure to leave even astute viewers scratching their heads in confusion. It's a shame, really, given that I Am Love's incredible visuals are often heightened by Swinton's award-worthy performance, yet Guadagnino is, in the final analysis, utterly unable to make the viewer wholeheartedly care about any of the upper-crust characters.
A Bigger Splash
Call Me by Your Name (March 6/18)
Based on a book by André Aciman, Call Me by Your Name details the unlikely romance that ensues between a 17-year-old student (Timothée Chalamet's Elio) and his father's (Michael Stuhlbarg's Mr. Perlman) older research assistant (Armie Hammer's Oliver). Director Luca Guadagnino has infused Call Me by Your Name with an unhurried and excessively languid sensibility that becomes more and more problematic as time progresses, which is disappointing, to say the least, given the degree to which the movie's opening stretch establishes a convincing, promising atmosphere (ie Guadagnino certainly develops the very specific time and place wherein the story occurs). It is, perhaps inevitably, not long before the wafer-thin narrative begins to run out of steam, as scripter James Ivory delivers a storyline that's heavy on hanging out and frolicking but light on character development and context - with the less-than-engrossing feel preventing the viewer from working up much interest in the eventual coupling between Chalamet and Hammer's respective characters. It's a vibe that's compounded by the actors' almost total lack of chemistry together, as there's simply never a point at which Elio and Oliver become the sensual, passionate pair that Guadagnino has clearly intended - thus ensuring that Call Me by Your Name's second half, devoted almost entirely to the illicit relationship, is almost entirely devoid of compelling or even interesting interludes. The last-minute inclusion of an electrifying and heartfelt tete-a-tete between Elio and his dad certainly isn't enough to compensate for the ineffectiveness of all preceding it, and it's finally impossible to label Call Me by Your Name as anything other than an overlong, overwrought misfire.