Call Me By Your Name (2017)

“We wasted so much time”

Spring and part of the summer of 1983 (when this film is set) was the beginning of an important period of my life – although I didn’t realise it at the time.

Aged somewhere between main characters Elio and Oliver, I spent several months living in Italy as part of my University course. It was only the second time I had been abroad on my own, and never for such an extended period of time. I was not worldly-wise, resentful at having to go there, and a bit lost. It was hot, everything was slow-paced, the radio was the source of entertainment.

If you’ve seen this film, it’s not a great leap to work out that it was easy for me to relate to in many ways.

There is something incredibly of the time and yet timeless about this story. It doesn’t matter whether the protagonists are straight or gay, this is a universal story about growing up, growing wise, feeling love and feeling pain.

It’s beautifully shot, with grass blowing in the almost imperceptible breeze and the Italian sunlight shining from an eternally blue sky. The framing of many of the scenes could convey a sense of voyeurism – we often view events through windows or doorways, or looking down on what’s happening from balconies – but I took from it more of a sense of anticipation; that we are about to step in to the action with Elio once he had taken a beat to observe from the outside. Conversely, we also see people (particularly Oliver) shot from below, looking up at him almost adoringly. Armie Hammer is tall, admittedly, and this choice makes him almost godlike as viewed from Elio’s point of view – he adores him.

Armie Hammer is very good, treading carefully around his young admirer, choosing the right moment to acknowledge that the feelings are real. His geeking out over etymology is adorable.

But it is Timothée Chalamet who really steals the show. It’s his story, and the final scene is extraordinary. I’m happy to hand over the Oscars to him and to Michael Stuhlbarg (who plays his father) without hesitation. Stuhlbarg’s speech towards the end had me wiping away a tear.

I love that the characters’ names (Oliver and Elio) contain the same letters – like they are wrapped in each other.

I even forgive the decision to cast straight actors in gay or bisexual roles.

The honesty of this film and some of the images have stayed with me even several days after viewing, and it’s bubbling to the top of my favourites for 2017 – Luca Guadagnino has done it again!

Oh, and I also saw The Psychedelic Furs play live – Leeds University Union Freshers’ week far too many years ago, as I recall.

A Bigger Splash

I must confess that I found director Luca Guadagnino’s previous feature – I Am Love – very self-indulgent and highly irritating, so the publicity around A Bigger Splash had me worried. But the cast was impressive enough to draw me in so off I went.

Ralph Fiennes is gloriously irritating, Tilda Swinton magnificently indecipherable, Dakota Johnson sulkily secretive and Matthias Schoenaerts taciturnly ursine. All together, they work brilliantly to ensure that just when you think you know where things are heading, they go in a whole different direction and I was happy to go with them.

The subtly introduced illegal immigrant side-theme was actually underplayed too much for me, and could have remained subtle yet still made more of a statement, particularly in the final act.

But this is a film with many layers, and I feel like I’m still peeling them back.

In the footsteps of the Corleone Family

 

 

There’s a village near Palermo in Sicily called Corleone, which would lead you to believe that scenes from The Godfather films were shot here.

However, the actual location for these scenes in on the other side of the island, shared between two different villages – Savoca and Forza d’Agrò. Fortunately, I was staying in the town of Taormina, not too far from either, so a trip was in order. Forza d’Agrò is the place where we see young Vito being hidden in a cart outside the church before escaping to New York in The Godfather II (you can compare in the video clip below).

This was fun, but not as much as getting to Savoca. That’s the home of Bar Vitelli, where Michael meets Apollonia at her father’s bar, and also the church where they are married, and the square where the wedding party takes place.


Here’s me, sitting in Al Pacino’s actual spot outside the bar, having walked up the side street just like he does in the film. There are a few more plants around the bar than in the film, but then … tourism, eh.

The village also has a tribute to Francis Ford Coppola, recognisable by his silhouette – see the gallery under the video for a few more shots.

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8 1/2

I know I have seen this before, a while ago, and I clearly wasn’t giving it my full attention as I remember being vaguely complimentary and vaguely dismissive at the same time.What was I thinking?! Having just seen the restored re-release of this 1963 Oscar-winner on a cinema screen, I formally recant any reservations and hereby declare this to be a masterpiece.You can read in depth about the background to the film elsewhere, but suffice to say that this comic/existential drama totally hit the spot for me, exploring as it does themes of juggling professional stresses and personal crises. Fellini lays it all on the screen for anyone to see, hiding nothing. Life is a circus, his protagonist is the ringmaster, and sometimes difficult choices have to be made.

Marcello Mastroianni is perfect as the flawed on-screen version of Fellini himself, and Claudia Cardinale is just beautiful.

I can’t explain how glad I am that I gave this a second chance. It’s perfect.

Deux jours, une nuit – Two Days, One Night

Poor old Marion Cotillard is about to return to work after a period of depression, only to discover that her colleagues have, under pressure, voted for a bonus instead of her return. She must channel all of what remains of her mental fortitude into visiting each of her colleagues over the weekend to persuade them – almost beg them – to forgo the bonus and vote for her to keep her job instead.

Watching Cotillard repeat her task was exhausting, but her portrayal of a person struggling with depression was pitch-perfect. The hardships facing some of her colleagues are revealed, and the whole story-line is as much a commentary on the situation of many low-paid workers and immigrants in Europe as it is on Sandra’s battle to retain her job.

It’s a film I’m certainly very glad I’ve seen, but that I would find very difficult to watch again.