Festival Smash Call Me by Your Name Is Accessible, Intelligent, Subtle, and Nearly Perfect | Film Review | Indy Week
Pin It

Festival Smash Call Me by Your Name Is Accessible, Intelligent, Subtle, and Nearly Perfect 

Since its premiere at Sundance last summer, Luca Guadagnino's latest film has received nearly unanimous praise, which is often a sign of bland likability. But Call Me by Your Name is the rare festival smash that is broadly accessible without sacrificing one whit of intelligence, subtlety, or craft.

The film kicks off with a sly self-conscious wink as the intertitles "Somewhere in Northern Italy" evoke a fairy-tale realm attuned to the sensuous climate and refined culture yet removed from the pressures of history and politics. Young Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet, sure to become a star) and his parents (Michael Stuhlbarg and Amira Casar), a family of transatlantic Jewish intellectuals, are on their annual summer vacation at their seventeenth-century Italian country home. Oliver (Armie Hammer), an American graduate student, soon arrives as a temporary assistant to Elio's father, a professor of classical archaeology. Oliver plays the alpha-bro foil to Elio's moody child prodigy, and their initial tension breaks into a brief but passionate affair.

One of Guadagnino's many achievements is how he charges the ephemeral story with import and anticipation. The sheer thrill of the filmmaking is undeniable, lensed in 35mm by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom (best known for his work with Apichatpong Weerasethakul) and composed to convey a wealth of subtle information without ever being obvious. James Ivory's script, adapted from André Aciman's internationally renowned novel, delights in intellectual pleasures absent from most contemporary cinema. It's been awhile since we've seen anything like a performance of Bach in the style of Liszt or a quote from a sixteenth-century French romance played as erotic overtures. Yet neither does the film shy away from raw sentimentality; the beautiful climactic speech by Elio's father about the necessity of heartbreak serves as a manifesto.

If I've only indirectly identified Elio and Oliver's relationship as queer, that's because the film is indirect to a fault about the terms normally used to describe nonheterosexual romantic love. This is not to say that it lacks specificity—far from it. Most of Elio and Oliver's developing passion is conveyed through silent glances, innuendo, and the details of the 1983 mise-en-scène. The film never mentions gay liberation or the AIDS crisis, but the cultural markers are precise, from Elio's Ray-Ban sunglasses to a pivotal dance sequence set to The Psychedelic Furs' "Love My Way."

Though circumstances require them to be discreet, the lovers are protected from serious opprobrium by class and the enlightened temperament of Elio's parents. Both men also have flirtations with women, yet neither seems forced by the encounter to radically question his identity. Guadagnino's eye equally eroticizes men, women, and their environment (including a particular piece of fruit), and he has been criticized for whitewashing gay sex as well as gay politics.

Instead of exploring gay identity, the filmmakers have carved out a kind of laboratory for queer love. Elio and Oliver's affair is as isolated from their respective life histories as it is from history writ large, even if its memory stays with them forever. Within those limits, they are free. Accept the film's limits, and Call Me by Your Name is nearly perfect.

Speaking of...

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Film Review



Twitter Activity

Comments

Much as I hate to be that guy, I must nonetheless point out a minor error in your review. The …

by Just Another Malcontent on Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Is an Alternately Respectful and Baffling Parable About Japan (Film Review)

I loved the movie but I'm curious about the Japanese version. Will it be translated or subtitled? I assume they …

by Neil Robertson on Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Is an Alternately Respectful and Baffling Parable About Japan (Film Review)

Most Read

Most Recent Comments

Much as I hate to be that guy, I must nonetheless point out a minor error in your review. The …

by Just Another Malcontent on Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Is an Alternately Respectful and Baffling Parable About Japan (Film Review)

I loved the movie but I'm curious about the Japanese version. Will it be translated or subtitled? I assume they …

by Neil Robertson on Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Is an Alternately Respectful and Baffling Parable About Japan (Film Review)

Lurid and Trashy? Clint Eastwood is a true pioneer of cinema-in front of the camera and in the directors chair.For …

by jde on In Her Remake of Clint Eastwood's Lurid, Trashy The Beguiled, Sofia Coppola Probes Deeper Rhythms (Film Review)

Americans are really good at watching movies and everyone knows that they spend a lot of money on watching them, …

by Anil Sharma on The Average American Sees Five Thousand Movies in a Lifetime. Half of Them Come Out This Week. (Film Review)

I read a couple of good reviews about this movie in Hungarian papers. Actually it could be my mother's and …

by Gabor Lukacs on Ferenc Török’s 1945 Is a Dark Fable and a History Lesson Wrapped in Fine Cinematic Storytelling (Film Review)

© 2018 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation