Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Film: 'Call Me by Your Name'

What on earth is wrong with me? Why is so much lavish praise being heaped on this? One recent reviewer on IMDb has described this as the best film he has ever seen! The highest commendation I can come up with is that it could well be in my Top 1,000 films - which itself is hardly 'poor' status, indicating that I rate it higher than at least 80% of my viewings. 

Set in Northern Italy, 1983, Armie Hammer plays an American research assistant on a visit to a professor (Michael Stuhlbarg) in Greco-Roman history, who lives with his translator wife (Amira Casar) and 17-year old son, Elio (Timothee Chalamet) in a large country house surrounded by orchards and vineyards. The young one has a hot-cold relationship with his girlfriend (Esther Garel).
After Hammer arrives there's a very slow-burn awareness of mutual attraction between him and the son, something the older man is the more reluctant to acknowledge at first. In fact the very first contact between them which is more than just a casual fleeting one, doesn't arrive until halfway through the film.  
I think the general tenor of film was purporting to conjure up a feeling of langour, reflecting the geographical location in Summer season. I think of Bertolucci and Antonioni in particular, as well as Pasolini, who succeeded in capturing that lazy, sun-drenched ambience so unique to Italy. If that was what director Luca Guadagnino was aiming at I'm not sure he got quite there, though it's true that he has caught well the underlying restlessness of the younger male's burgeoning sexuality. If his aim had been to put that latter aspect centre-stage, then I have to admit that he achieved it.

I didn't find the story all that interesting. Maybe I felt a bit unsettled at seeing the attraction played out between a 17-year old, appearing every bit as young as his character, and a man looking at least twice the younger one's age (though Hammer is actually only 31!). Perhaps it's my own ultra-conventional upbringing which needs to be revised in the head.

Screenplay (based on novel by one Andre Aciman) is by none other than the revered James Ivory himself - and who, it's been mooted, wanted to direct, or at least to part-direct, the film itself. If he had done so I would have expected him to have injected it with a touch of the magic which, I sadly feel, it lacks.

I can't imagine this film enjoying a long-life in my memory bank. In fact, now the morning after, it's already beginning to fade a bit.
Yesterday I'd settled on giving it a rating of '6', but now realising what a rarely-heard story we see on film which it is, I'll nod to that aspect and push it up a semi-notch...............6.5.




17 comments:

  1. This one is playing at our local arthouse. We're seeing it this weekend. I'll see if it desreves the raves.

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    1. I hope you like it, Bob. Not that there's a 'right' opinion or a 'wrong' one, but I do get a satisfaction when someone sees a quality in a film which had escaped me. It makes me want to see it again and challenge my initial impression.

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  2. Probably not the best timing for the film coming out on the heels of the Kevin Spacey pedophilia charges. Does this film add to the public perception that all gay men are child predators? Of course if this was a Woody Allen or Roman Polanski film, the same generalization would not be made.

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    1. Actually I didn't get that impression at all, TGM, which is surprising as I've been particularly rocked by the Spacey allegations, not to say profoundly disappointed. I can't speak for others of course, but I'd be surprised if many are thinking in terms of paedophilia with regard to this film. It's handled quite delicately and non-exploitatively - and besides, the main pressure is from the younger to the older.

      Yes, certainly watching Woody Allen films now from his pre-controversy era (which I do regularly, re-watching ALL his films over and over), I can't banish from my mind what was to happen later whenever he's talking to a much younger female, which is often - though he now seems extra-careful to avoid such scenes in the films he's made since that ghastly disclosure. I don't think Polanski need worry on that score to the same extent - and anyway his films are far fewer.

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  3. I've read nothing but high praise for this film. I've also read high praise for "Beach Rats" which I saw several weeks ago and was greatly disappointed. Well, not entirely. I saw Harris Dickinson - a new actor and he kind of saved it.

    These themes are not new. If you subscribe to the streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, you can see stories that are similar. Some are well acted and some are badly acted.

    Yes, this film received glowing reviews. I understand that they mostly stuck to the book and only the ending was slightly changed. You say that the memory of the film is starting to fade. One reviewer referred to the infamous peach and the father son tete-a-tete. Do you recall these?

    I still will see this, but will have to wait as I understand it will be released in the United States on November 24th.

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    1. 'Beach Rats' gets a limited release here also on Nov 24th, Paul. Doesn't look like my kind of film so I'll almost certainly give it a miss, if it comes t this locality at all. (Current IMDb rating just 6.6, whereas 'Call....Name' is an awesomely inexplicable 8.4.)

      As for Bob above, I hope you like 'Call' for the same reason as I give him.
      If there's one scene (it actually crops up twice!) I'll retain about the film it is that regarding the peach.
      The heart-to-heart scene between broad-minded father and son (mother is too) is depicted well - not in any way sexual, neither is it salacious.

      Do see it. Majority opinion is against me in a big way. Perhaps it'll work it's spell on you too.

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  4. I'm always wary of books and films that receive endlessly gushing spasms of praise. Every now and then I get the feeling that the reviewers didn't even see the films or read the books.

    I have skimmed the novel "Call Me by Your Name" and it didn't interest me. I suppose the film would interest me even less.

    Perhaps Kevin Spacey would like it (*smile*).

    BWT - for some strange reason I used to have a crush on Kevin Spacey, years ago when few people knew he was gay.

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    1. On the other hand, Jon, maybe 17 years would be too old for Kevin S.? (I'm ashamed I even said that. Too late now!)
      I'd always liked Spacey as an actor but saw nothing physically attractive about him. I still feel rather sad about the whole business, particularly that now with the label of being a public paedo, there's just no conceivable way he'll get his career back - or indeed any worthwhile career.

      I was wondering if this film might read better on the printed page rather than as translated onto screen. Your thoughts seems to indicate that it may not be so. I'll not pursue it then.

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    2. Jon and Ray,
      Kevin Spacey always creeped me out, even before I knew he was gay. Now that I know he was (is) a gay predator, using his fame and power to take advantage of others in his sway, I have nothing but contempt for him. He got what he deserved. Good riddance.
      Ron

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  5. I am disappointed in you Ray. I adored it. I had not read any reviews before I went and went only because of the trailer I had seen. I think I am a softee for scenery and a good delivery: superbly understated

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    1. I've been steeling myself, waiting for you to call by and deliver me a raspberry, Rachel. And thank you for doing so - really!
      I'm quite aware that my opinion is out of kilter with the majority of those who've paid to see this film, but even more significantly, also with those who didn't need to pay i.e. the critics, who have almost to a man and women gone into raptures about it. And they are supposed to be the 'experts'. But your opinion to me has more value as you and I are among the (if you'll pardon the expression) great, unwashed hoi-polloi who like or dislike what they see without laborious analysis of the whys and wherefores.
      I readily accept that you thought the film worked superbly, as most others do. I can't pretend I felt something which I didn't, so as with all my views, it's pointless if I don't keep them honest.
      I'm with you on your use of the word 'understated'. It was that, certainly. But I didn't experience the quality of the film having 'gelled' before me. After it was over I did what I always do, look into myself as though an outsider, and ask to what degree did I feel satisfaction at what I'd just experienced. The answer came back clear - maybe a little, but not much more than that.
      It hardly needs saying (I hope) that I totally respect your views. In fact I'd go further and say that I envy you and wish I could share them as, for some reason, I've clearly missed out on the same pleasure-giving product which you've experienced.
      If and when it comes on the telly, just for you I'll give it another go.
      Thanks for calling in. Sincerity cannot be beaten. :-)

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    2. I agree with Rachel, beautiful scenery! Also, it's nice to have civil and mutually respectful disagreements. Keeps life interesting.

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  6. Oh my goodness Ray. This film sounds rather creepy. I've never been one that finds older man's attraction to a much younger man interesting or romantic. Especially now with all the hub bub with Kevin Spacey and his sexual predatory history. Maybe they should have cast Kevin in this movie. I may have to take a pass on this one Ray. Thanks for the review anyway.
    Ron

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    1. Ron, I have to say that the relationship portrayed here doesn't really come over as all that 'creepy' - largely, I suppose, because the pressure is principally applied by the younger guy on the older. However, I'm not sure what most people think in the light of the Spacey revelations/allegations. Most of the stunningly positive reviews (which I can't quite understand) will have been written before that time and it may well now colour people's opinions, though as I say above, even though I was watching the film after the revelations came to light, such matters did not even enter my head at the time. If you get the chance to see this I'd suggest you do. You might be among the large majority who seem to be citing this as a near-masterpiece. On the other hand you might agree with me that, in my own humble opinion, it's not.

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    2. It is not creepy at all.

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    3. Ray,
      I saw this film last night (via my Netflix DVD rental). For the first half of the film I was bored. BORED. I almost ejected it. But the second half, I did find it of some, SOME, interest. My boss at the hotel saw it and told me he liked it but thought Armand Hammer was too old for the character he played. I have to agree, I too thought he was too old. That creeped me out. I understand in the book his character is only 25 or so. I wish the people who produce movies would cast actors who are closer or the age of the characters represented in the books. It always throws me off when a 24 year old is playing a teenager or a 30 plus year old (as is Armand Hammer) plays a 25 year old. But having said all this, I did find the second half of the movie interesting. The reason why is because I felt they captured the pure joy of two individuals who have found each other and felt totally complete. The scenes towards the end of their time together when they're hollering at the top of their lungs while hiking in the country with the beautiful waterfalls, very touching. Brought tears to my eyes as did the ending when "Elio" is staring at the fireplace while life continues behind him (in a blur, contemplating his life without his one true love that would never be. I think I identified with this film because of my relationship with my Canadian buddy and soulmate. I cannot imagine my life without Pat now. When we're together we are totally one. In fact we are convinced that we were one person in a previous live. Same "amoeba" we like to call it. We have so much in common and the fact that we're often mistaken for brothers in so many of the cities we have visited attests to that fact that we have some kind of connection. Yes, I liked "Call Me By Your Name." If they would have just cast the "Oliver" role with younger actor, it would have been so much better though.
      Ron

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