FILM REVIEW

Love, From All Sides Now

Love

Spoken in every language. Painted in canvas. Expressed in music and song. Drawn in the air through movements in dance. Constructed as monuments of marble and earth. Embedded in gold, precious metals and gems. Imagined in the stars. Written in poetry and prose. 

 

Love. Maddening sweetness. Inescapable pain. That mystical mantle that blinds. Enchanting song that deafens. Longing that drives cowards to dare and the faithless to dream, the confident to stumble meekly, the strong to weaken, and the frail to withstand its tempestuous demands.

 

Love. Like life and death, a great equalizer. Its aim spares no color or creed, age or gender, appearance or intellect, or any category that hate divides. It is an awkward dance. The awareness of being alive. The death of the selfish child within.

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1983

 

 

Love. An amalgam of clarity and confusion; imbued both in a boy’s glance and a man’s deflection.  It is a sprinting heart that stands idly. It overwhelms with every hello, and is brutal in each goodbye. It finds merriment in every smile. It anticipates in silence. Love delights in every meter of nearness, and is unbearable with every inch of distance. It pushes, it pulls. 

 

Love. Extraordinary to the stricken, but ordinary to the world around. It is the event horizon of a black hole, a powerful bending of time and space. 

Love. Extraordinary to the stricken, but ordinary to the world around. It is the event horizon of a black hole, a powerful bending of time and space. 

 

Love. The known intruder. The poets’ traitor. A familiar friend and foe whose temperament is unpredictable. Love. Its true essence, inapprehensible. An intoxicating illusion. A belligerent vision. Blessed is the mystery of love.

 

An NYU professor who teaches Classical History advised, “When someone says ‘I Love You’ you should ask, ‘What do you mean?”. Dr. Antonio Rutigliano, an animated and brilliant Italian educator whose DNA is undoubtedly ingrained with wine and romance, posesthe question, “Where do we get our idea of love?”

 

How do we know that when someone touches us in a certain way, that that is love and not sexual assault? How does a kiss, that otherwise bizarre tango of the lips and tongue, get translated as an ambrosial communication of mutual desire? How do we arrive at this image, this scene that tells us what love is supposed to be? Where do we get our vision of love? At home? In song? Videos? Books? From movies? 

 

Call Me By Your Name starring Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer, the film based on the acclaimed first book of André Aciman and directed by Luca Guadagnino, is not a romance story. It is not a lover’s story. It is an extraordinary telling of an ordinary love story.

 

by Loy Bernal Carlos

photos courtesy of Mongrel Media

Set in the summer of 1983 in the North of Italy, the story begins with the Perlman family at their 17th century villa welcoming Oliver (Hammer), a 24-year old American scholar working on his doctorate as a summer intern for Professor Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg).

 

“Il est très confiant,” Elio (Chalamet) the Perlmans’ son–observing from the second floor window–tells friend Marzia (Esther Garrel). This is a downplayed but significant departure in tone. Because merely a second or two ago before seeing Oliver, the boy had been anticipating the internship as a foregone intrusion.

 

Elio descends to meet the guest, and was asked by his mother, Annella (Amira Casar) to show Oliver to his room. Oliver will be staying at Elio’s old bedroom, while Elio uses an adjoining room that is accessible through a shared bathroom. To a 17-year old, such proximity to a total stranger would have been close to unbearable. But the teenager does not seem to be noticeably bothered, perhaps because he is used to the annual summer imposition.

 

Oliver is an amiable but somewhat of an “impertinent American” at first. He is brash enough to be uncomfortable around, but not so much that he comes across as entirely and utterly obnoxious. His charm is disarming, unless of course, you’re unwilling to be charmed by him.

 

The first third of the movie is spent as a series of short scenes that seem, on the surface, mundane. Guadagnino proves to be a master at embedding important turning points and wrapping them in the banality of bike rides and casual conversations.

 

For example, a loss of balance forces Oliver to lean on Elio prompting Oliver to race away, leaving the boy befuddled. At a volleyball game local girls swoon over the tourist, marveling at his masculinity, but the boy appears to be detached and unimpressed. And when Oliver stops mid game for a drink, and proceeds to massage Elio’s shoulder, the teenager recoils. Not an unusual reaction, but something in the boy’s expression arouses suspicion. These and other key moments are hidden in everyday situations that could easily be missed. 

 

Much of the film shows Elio transcribing and playing classical music, sometimes flirting with Marzia. Oliver traipses in and out of the villa when not working with Professor Perlman. Or he is seen flirting with Chiara ((Victoire du Bois). Whenever he is around Elio, the handsome intern seems to just lounge around, totally preoccupied with himself. Their exchanges are generally abrupt. Oliver’s inherent boldness is countered by Elio’s intellectual confidence that at times comes across as condescension, a quality the young lad regrets.

 

“Is there anything you don’t know,” Oliver would later ask.

 

“If only you knew how little I know about the things that matter,” Elio replies.