“Call Me By Your Name” is an atmospheric Italian sojourn!
Adapted by James Ivory from André Aciman’s novel by the same name, Call Me By Your Name beams with the kind of lyricism that we saw in the movie moghul’s erstwhile films. Ivory’s cinema had simple premises projecting complicated emotions, most often sans gargantuan production values. As a writer, the iconic filmmaker lends the same sensitivity to the director Luca Guadagnino’s canvas. One must add that, to the makers’ convenience, the premise is set in the ‘80s, which is when a lot of Merchant Ivory Productions’ golden projects bloomed. Ah, remember Maurice?
The clear-cut point here is how Call Me By Your Name is completely a writer’s film. Be it the nuances, the intricacies or the mellowness in the romance, Ivory’s version of Aciman’s poignant story is everything that exemplifies cinematic brilliance.
Call Me By Your Name is a breezy sojourn to Elio’s world. Set in an idyllic town in Italy, the film initially tantalizes you with a certain antique-ness in the way it is. A young man, Oliver, visits from the United States to intern with Elio’s archaeologist father. It’s Italian countryside and the visual of the protagonists, riding bicycles and painting the town red, clad in their tiny shorts is the perfect starter to construct a sensitive love story. Ivory’s detailed and contrasting characterizations of the leads make it further exciting. Elio, a supposedly progressive Jew, knows everything, right from history to music and art. Oliver is the jovial, extroverted and notably conservative one who wears a Star of David pendant. Elio, upon finding the same, is amused how he used to wear one. And in the next scene, you see him wearing one too – never to go off his neck again. Interestingly enough, Elio’s heterosexual romps, too, are picturized with a certain subdued rawness that you are able to relate to his angst throughout. The brief moments used to build up sexual tension are skillfully conceptualized and, hence, organic in the way they materialize.
Guadagnino’s frames are painting-like with most of the sequences establishing Elio and Oliver’s bonding being shot in picturesque wide frames. The moody environments play a stunning part in several instances – be it the river, the garden with the giant tree. Towards the midpoint, it is especially striking to see how the camera pans to the tree during, perhaps, the most crucial moment in the film.
For a love story that it is, Call Me By Your Name carries an inevitable hint of sadness. We never really see the couple get into the steamy zone of intimacy. They might be together but the union is well-introspected, with a certain distance separating them. At the same time, Ivory and Guadagnino makes sure that the film doesn’t appear to be one of those tragic star-crossed romances. There is love, passion and just the right amount of sensuality. Explicit it could have been but the makers’ decision to steer clear of it largely works in favour of the film – rendering the mysterious central relationship all the more conspicuous.
Later, towards the finale, we get a marvellous monologue by Michael Stuhlbarg. The middle-aged yet progressive man is accepting his son Elio’s attraction to Oliver. It is an awkward moment for the viewer but the actor lends such gravitas to the scene that the impact is more compelling than what could have been on paper. Just take note of Elio’s icy reaction as he speaks.
The film ends at a very earlier point than how it is in the book and rightfully so. Ivory pens a supremely cinematic ending in the midst of Hanukkah celebration at Elio’s home. The familiar pandemonium in the Perlman household continues as Oliver breaks a news to Elio. If the entire film wasn’t enough of a proof, Timothée Chalamet’s expressions as he stares blankly at a burning fireplace can break the coldest of hearts. What an actor, and what a film has he been cast perfectly in.
So yes! My favourite from the Academy Awards 2018 is Call Me By Your Name.