Oh dear. I know that Boots Riley’s ‘Sorry To Bother You’ is being lauded be everyone, and I just feel this is going to be one of those situations wherein everyone loves a film and I just…don’t get it. Maybe it’s a genealogical flaw or something, but movies that are sort of fantastical, sort of sci-fi – they just don’t appeal to me, and at the most I can appreciate them. This film falls under that category, unfortunately. It is a story of a young man (La Keith STanfield) who starts working for a telemarketing firm and we realize he is living in an alternate world wherein reality shows are of people getting punched, and people are living and working in factories (slavery, basically) and companies are cloning half human half horse things for future workforce. It’s all smart and imaginative, and very scary, this dystopian universe. And I felt…nothing. Even the cuteness of Armie Hammer (and he is a snack here) cannot make me really get into this. Yes, yes, I know it is trying to say something about Corporate America, selling out, and a lot of things wrong in our society today. he film is akin to a great hip hop song. I can listen to it, but I probably won’t add it to any of my playlists.
‘Final Portrait feels like a film where you just watch Armie Hammer (as James Lord) sitting down as Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti paints (or ties to paint) his portrait. But since it’s Armie Hammer, I am game. In real time, I can watch him sit still for hours and I wouldn’t mind it.
I do have to admit that at certain points in the film, I had to ask myself, where is this film going? And I had to tell myself, just enjoy the ride. And it could be a slow, laborious, ride, but it is very pleasant. Geoffrey Rush plays Giacometti like a manic, and I am just going to assume it is an accurate portrayal, since I know little about the artist, plus, this movie is based on Lord’s memoir about sitting for the portrait. Hammer doesn’t really do much here but react to Rush’s antics, and is able to convey his (and presumably the viewer’s) exasperation of the whole process. I like the slice of what it documents of Giacometti’s life, and I am now inclined to google some of his artistic work. This film is written and directed by the actor Stanley Tucci, and he has made an actor’s film. It’s a small film, but the characters are big – and human.
The one thing I loved most about ‘Call Me By Your Name’ is its music. I thought it not only enhanced the film, but it seems like it was another character. The music helped build tension, it emphasized how characters are feeling, and in some cases helped advance the story.
Since the movie is set in Northern Italy 1983, we get a glimpse of pop music then. I loved how Giorgio Morroder and Joe Esposito ‘Lady Lady Lady’ described the emotional turmoil in Elio’s mind as he watched Oliver dance with another girl. I was racking my brain as to why that song sounded so familiar and voila, I googled and found out that it was on the ‘Flashdance’ soundtrack, which of course I used to play back in the day. And I am nowhere near an 80s pop music expert, but I don’t think I recall ever listening to Miss Cha Cha Cha’s ‘Paris Latino,’ and now it’s one of my favorite things.
Then there’s the classical stuff. I cannot stop listening to “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme,” which id of course from one of my favorite scenes from the movie, when Elio starts showing off to Oliver how he can change arrangements of a piece based on how Liszt would do Bach’s version, among other variants. On the soundtrack, Alessio Bax’s recording of the tune is perfection. I also love all the other ‘modern’ instrumental pieces, like Ryuichi Sakamoto’s ‘Germination.’
And really, we also get Sufjan Steven’s three songs, two that were made especially for the film. They are all magnificent, each and every single one of them. They all fit perfectly in each of the scenes, and even Luca Guadigno describes the songs as part of the narration of the film. There’s the urgency of ‘Fultiel Devices’ when Elio starts looking for Oliver after he has professed his love for him. And there’s the swooning, romantic ‘Mystery of Love,’ and I don’t think I will ever listen to ‘Vision of Gideon’ without shedding a tear.
‘Call Me By Your Name’ is rich in sensory artistry – the lush cinematography, the ripeness of the peach, the cracking of the soft-boiled egg. The music, evidenced in this soundtrack, contributes to what makes it unforgettable.
There are films you watch, and there are films you connect with, and then there are those rare films that watch, connect with you, and haunt you. I cannot remember the last time I saw a movie more than once at the cinemas – this one I saw three times in a span of five days.
When Andre Aciman’s book first came out about ten years ago, I already fell in love with it. I remember giving it to friends as Christmas gifts because I thought it alone was a gift. I had doubts as to how the lyrical aspect of the book would be translated to the big screen. But Luca Guadigno has made a film that is art filled with art, and the lyrical tone has been captured perfectly by James Ivory, who wrote the screenplay.
So let me count the ways of what makes this film beautiful. First, the wondrous performance by Timothee Chalamet as Elio. I cannot recall a performance so committed, so worn in. I have seen countless interviews with Chalamet now and it seems that Elio is very far removed from his reality, yet in my warped sense of reality, he will always be Elio. Everything in his performance is perfection, and we actually get to see a transformation on screen – of a young man going from confusion to giving in to how he feels; of a young man graduating from his books and music to experiencing life and love as real as it is expressed through those arts, and of someone jumping from naivete to heartbroken, all in a span of 132 minutes. I know he is getting acclaim for his performance here, but I hope he gets the highest acclaim he can.
And, Chalamet’s chemistry with Armie Hammer’s Oliver id palpable. I have some doubts myself about Hammer’s casting (In the book, Oliver is 24, and Hammer reads on screen as someone older) but perhaps that’s just nitpicking. Hammer gives the performance of his career here – he has never been more real, vulnerable, alive. He has the tendency to appear wooden and bland from his previous roles, but here I think I can actually his heart beating beneath his Star of David necklace. And Michael Stuhlbarg’s monologue at the end of the film is already legendary, and that message encapsulates what the film is all about. We have said the phrase ‘love is love’ over and over again, but here we get to see and feel those words.
And above all, this film awakens all emotions. We get to reminisce the feeling of when we first fall in love, we get to revisit the heartbreak of that, too. I have always thought that in love there is always pain, and I have always celebrated that pain. Sometimes in the dreariest of days, the pain is what reminds us that we are alive – that we are still normal, breathing people, and pain will always remind us of that. So indeed, perhaps I am one of those people who will always want to feel the pain of heartbreak. This film has a lot of joy, but it’s its pain that resonates with me, and will stay with me.
I can go on and on and on about this, but i will practice what I like most about the film – its restraint. Guadagnino is wise to dial down when things could be overtly sentimental. Can you imagine that train scene in the hands of a less-nuanced director? Even the intimate scenes seem to be shier, focusing more on the intimacy than the salaciousness. he holds, back, the film holds back, because when you do, you give out more.
I have already described this film as haunting. I fear for me, it will do so for the rest of my life.