Call Me By Your Name (2017): The Perfect Picture

A very pure form of storytelling, brought out by Luca Guadagnino, Call me by your Name; is one of the greatest English Language movies to come out of this century. The innocence, the romance, the sensuality; Guadagnino seduces his audiences into a heart-rending love affair; with the 17 year old Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet), his desire for the much older archaeology scholar, Oliver (Armie Hammer); and the Italian landscape. In the past, I’ve spoken about Why I love, films like Roman Holiday (1953), Jules et Jim (1962), Annie Hall (1977); et al; on IMDB!! The purity of the realistic, natural feel of these tear jerker romances, and sad, yet beautifully told love stories, with a mature understanding of human emotions; immerses you into these movies, empathizing with the characters; and being deeply involved with their intellectual conversations; understanding, and accepting their bonds, along with their eventual separations or tragic rides to death of their romantic flings (either metaphorically or literally). The style also reminded me of the Art Films of Éric Rohmer; especially Pauline à la Plage (1983); English Title – Pauline at the Beach (which was, also a coming of age story, released in the year Call me by your Name is set in); and Rohmer’s famed “Tales of the Four Seasons” series of films.

Everything about this movie is uniquely brilliant. The story/narrative (based on the novel by André Aciman); the script/screenplay by the renowned James Ivory (collaborated with Luca Guadagnino and Walter Fasano); the music/soundtrack by Sufjan Stevens; the cinematography by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom; film edit by Walter Fasano, the film direction by Luca Guadagnino; – They all come together to bring out something pure and touchingly sublime.

From the artistic title credits, at the beginning; which look like chalk on board (most probably a shout out to the 80’s, when chalk was still used on Blackboards; by the 90’s schools slowly transitioned to Whiteboards with gel markers) with pictures of Hellenistic sculptures showcasing the beauty of the male form; to the finalé, with the burning fire in the cold winter reflecting on Elio’s crying face (like an allegory of his burning desire; being submerged with an unbearable depression of lost love); as the end credits roll; with Sufjan Stevens lending his vocals to the melonchonic Visions of Gideon; this movie completely encapsulates the audience emotions. Though the movie might have ended, the deep impact it leaves us with, stays on for days and days. It feels so real.

Regardless of it being a love story between man and a boy; the emotional turmoil, of experiencing first love, is something every human being can relate to; immaterial of his/her sexual orientation and racial/religious background. It’s a great coming age story, of two gay men; shown in such a naturalistic and non-judgemental manner; it makes one believe in love and romance. The best line of the movie is delivered by Perlman Sr. (i.e. Elio’s father), played by Michael Stuhlbarg; towards the end of the movie. Such an understanding parent, who doesn’t condemn his son’s act of love, with a much older man. Both Elio’s father and mother, Annella Perlman (played elegantly by British born actress, Amira Casar); are very accepting, modern, open-minded individuals; who trust their teenage son’s maturity; yet cuddle and shower him with love kids desire from their parents. Age has nothing to do with maturity. There are so many fully grown immature adults in the world; incapable of intellect, deep though and understanding. Here we see a teenager, along with his caring parents; who are highly mature and sophisticated, in dealing with emotional problems with dignity.

Speaking of elegance and dignity; the Perlman’s definitely are a very privileged family; yet they aren’t obsessed with materialism; even though their superior taste in the world of arts is well acknowledged. They are well in tune with nature and their natural surroundings around the beautiful Villa, in the region of Lombardy, in Northern Italy; that they reside in. We see Elio and Oliver (an American Jewish visitor for the summer, working as an assistant to Elio’s father) exploring the natural countryside, cycling, swimming and dancing. Added to which, we see Elio as a book worm and a lover of classical music.

From the music, to the cinematography, the atmosphere created within; the entire movie seduces us, without necessary showcasing graphic sex. The much talked about peach scene, has a naïvety entwined with it’s sensuality; as erotic as it is, it’s also a touching moment. Elio’s desire to penetrate Oliver is obvious (as it’s led to believe Elio is on the receiving end), the touching of the soft skin on the peach, exploring the hole atop, it’s aesthetically sensual without being cheap and vulgar; yet Elio feels humiliated when Oliver teases him for it. Innocence, eroticism and misery, all rolled in one; making one feel sorry for Elio.

Nature and the aesthetic male nude, play a crucial role in the movie. There is a scene where the archeology professor (i.e. Elio’s father, mentioned above) takes Elio and Oliver to see the ancient Kouros statues that have washed up close to shore, at Lake Garda. Elio and Oliver admire the statue of the male form in all it’s beauty; later the Professor tells Oliver of his admiration for the bronze kouroi, the aesthetic male nude of the bygone era; an understanding of artists’ affections for the youthful male body (which practically was like an understanding, and acceptance, in part of the professor, of Oliver’s love for the Professor’s fully developed young son). And then there is a scene where we see Oliver’s naked physique standing in the dark, from behind, standing at a windowsill; and his beautiful body looks like a Hellenistic works of art, discovered at the Lake Garda, itself. Armie Hammer was 30 years old, and in marvellous shape, when he did this role. The then, 21 year old, Timothée Chalamet, is very believable as a 17 year old Elio, who looks 15. Yup, Chalamet; is capable of portraying an even younger teenager, if he had to. What is more impressive is the fact, that both these actors are actually heterosexual; yet they play their on-screen homosexual romance with such ease, it makes the movie entirely more believably brilliant. And the atmosphere created with the landscape and background score; helps us cherish their beautiful May/December romance, admiringly.

Speaking of music, Call me by your Name also has a great soundtrack; especially with Elio being a musical prodigy of sorts. We get to hear Elio’s own renditions of maestros of classical music, the likes of Bach; and the way Liszt might have played Bach. Added to which there are some beautiful modern day songs, like Sufjan Stevens Mystery of Love and the very 80’s Love my Way by The Psychedelic Furs (from their 1982 album, Forever Now). Speaking of the 80’s; as I mentioned earlier, this movie is set in the Summer of 1983. Yet, Luca Guadagnino manages to make the 80’s feel very today. In other words; instead of making the 80’s, vintage; without making the setting a blast from the past; Guadagnino transports us, the audience back; making us feel as if we are currently living in the 1980’s. It feels like the present. The movie unravels in front of our eyes, as if it were happening, at this moment. Not in a nostalgic sense.

Teenage angst, sexual awakening, first crush; these are coming of age themes; all humans can relate to (whether it’s a love for an older person; where the adult reciprocates; or whether it’s a painful experience of unrequited love). Elio, in one sense, is a very lucky teenager; he not only falls in love; but his love with an adult is consummated (without marriage, of course). Added to which, he has very understanding parents, who give him the freedom teenagers desire, without suffocating him; at the same time, they are there for him, when he needs them the most. When Elio, heartbroken, calls his mum to come and get him; his mother rushes to his aid. The father, consoles the heartbroken child, advising him, not to stop feeling human emotions; because of the pain of losing his first love. Yet, we do sympathize, with Elio. The moment, he whispers “Elio, Elio, Elio” (reminiscence of a romantic moment they shared, where they called each other with their own names; “Call me by your name, and I’ll call you by mine”); to his ex-lover over the phone”, pulls at your heart strings. And Elio sitting and staring at the fire, the emotionally devastated state he is in, when he finds out, Oliver is getting married to a woman; is heartbreaking. Similar, yet so different, to the silent; not speaking a word, yet facial expressions betraying their emotions; type ending from Roman Holiday. That Peck & Hepburn love story is till date, my all time favourite movie; and Call me by your Name, no doubt is my favourite gay themed love story; and amongst my favourites from this century.

This artistically told delicate romance, made with a small budget; has been nominated for 4 Oscars. From ‘Best Motion Picture of the Year’, to ‘Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role’, to ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’, to ‘Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)’ for Mystery of Love; all the nominations are deservedly so; yet it is sad, that Luca Guadagnino, has not been nominated for his superb film direction. Call me by your Name, should at least bag the top prize, for ‘Best Picture’; if not for all four. Yet, I highly doubt, Timothée Chalamet, would win the ‘Best Actor’ trophy; as the academy tends to look at the Body of Work as well (which is absurd, as there is something called a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ for that); but anyway, I felt Gary Oldman did a slightly more brilliant role (of playing past British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill), in Darkest Hour (2017). Besides Call me by your Name and Darkest Hour; the only other ‘Best Picture’ nominee I’ve seen is, Dunkirk (2017). All three films are superb in their own right; but Call me by your Name, definitely deserves the coveted Oscar statuette, THE most. No matter, how great, the rest of the films nominated are; I highly doubt, that any of them come close to the unique masterpiece that is Call me by your Name!!!!!

Call Me By Your Name (2017)
My Rating: 10/10 !!!!!!!!!!

I first watched Call me by your Name, last month, on 11th January 2018, streamed online, on a useless website, with a pathetic copy of the film (the quality was soooo bad); BUT the movie was totally worth it. The fact I fell in love with this movie, despite watching it in such bad quality; says a lot about what a great movie it is. So I wanted to re-watch it, on a better quality. Earlier this month, I downloaded a copy of the film, from another site. It took 7 hours or so; felt like the whole day. To see, it was a 30 second clip, stating, to watch the full movie, go to some website!! I was infuriated, and utterly disappointed. Then, on 22nd February 2018, I downloaded it from the site I started downloading films, for the first time, last year (see my post Mardi-Gras, Movies-Gay from March 2017). Initially Call me by your Name was not available on the said site. It took only a couple of hours, and I watched it for a second time, then and there. The quality of the downloaded version was crisp and clear (sadly just the English subtitles for the French and Italian segments were not available; but I can make out some phrases in French, anyway ’twas not much of an issue). The film was worth re-watching, in better quality. It’s sad these great movies are rarely shown in Cinemas here; even then they don’t last for more than a week (watched Darkest Hour, at the Cinema; which lasted only one week). I’d love to re-experience this movie, away from the Laptop; and on the big wide screen someday. Until then ….

Later!!!!!
Nuwan Sen
(Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense)

🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑

Advertisements