Call Me by Your Name
Many Americans see the history of cinema as only that of films made inside the United States or with American actors; many disregard the incredible material and milestones reached outside American borders. In the case of American films about homosexuality, they became a breakthrough subject only recently in the 2000s, many in the states saw these films as bold steps into uncharted territory; but these observers have turned a completely blind eye to the likes of European films, such as those of Almodobar, who had been writing realistic gay and even transgender characters in the 80s and 90s. We’ve now gotten Call Me By Your Name, which seems to be a bridge in the subject between these two literal continents of filmmaking.
Call My By Your Name is based off of a best-selling book by André Aciman, the story takes place in summer, northern Italy in 1983, and follows Ely (Timothée Chalamet) the son of a successful university professor (Michael Stuhlbarg), and Oliver (Armie Hammer) a young American hired by Ely’s father to help out in an archeological job over the summer. Ely and Oliver spend much time together and slowly and delicately, they fall into a suspenseful romance.
The film is directed by Luca Guadagnino, and for many who didn’t see his first foray into the general American market with his previous film A Bigger Splash, this is surely to put him on cinema-lovers’ radar. Guadagnino has a very clichéd European style of filmmaking, which involves a very slow-burn pace with scarce and carefully chosen dialogue. The film might seem so originally refreshing, because in fact it’s really a European film made with American actors.
Guadagnino hand is felt everywhere throughout the film; he’s a man very keen on making his actors go for subtle and “show don’t tell,” bringing more of an impact to every gesture and breath on screen. The film is meticulously calculated from a James Ivory script; one sees the atmospheric attention to detail, even every buzzing fly has a symbolic meaning. And if many of you are thinking this is simply another gay drama, then you are completely mistaken. The film is framed as a love story, and never feels preachy, constrained, or pushed by the fact that the two protagonists are men. Perhaps by telling this romance in such a matter-of-fact way it makes homosexuality all the more unremarkable to viewers, and all the more effective as an activist piece.
But the film is a test on your stamina and patience; those not accustomed to non-American films should brace themselves for a different tone and pace than what they’re used to. The film certainly feels longer than it is, but what keeps you going is the subtle attention of every department of the film crew: from the music choices, to the shirts worn, and the humble yet masterful cinematography. Each grain keeps you appreciating something on the screen at all moments.
And then there are the actors who revel in Guadagnino’s directing. The Italian director certainly brings out the best performances in the careers of both Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg, the latter whom has a heartbreaking speech at the end of the film. And Timothée Chalamet, brings such a transparency and confidence to his character, that one feels not only a proximity to his character and struggles, but also to the “summer-feeling” that is so crucial to the film’s plot.
In the end, I have to say that Call Me By Your Name swept me off my feet. It feels like it belongs in a different time and on a different continent. The characters, the directing, and the feeling of experiencing art, are sure to weave this film into cinematic history, with no regard to where this film is from.