Italian director Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name was one of the pick of crop at the LFF, a classy, beautiful, sexy summer holiday of a movie, set “somewhere in Northern Italy” in the early 1980s, and starring Armie Hammer as an American grad student visiting an archeology professor (Michael Stuhlbarg) and his polyglot family at their gorgeous summer house near Lake Garda.
Working from a script by perennial Europhile James Ivory, Guadagnino weaves a shamelessly intellectual spell – these people wear their pretentiousness as lightly as a linen shirt – that combines Heraclitus, Bach and sculptures of antiquity with the erotic hedonism of youth, sex and pop music, particularly The Psychedelic Furs’ Love My Way.
The film revels in the hot physicality of bike rides in the countryside and cool dips in the river, as well as the sexual symbolism of forbidden fruits in orchards and the freshly-laid eggs for breakfast.
Hammer is great as Oliver, the larger-than-life American (and Jewish) visitor, but it is debutant Timothee Chalamet who steals the movie with a fabulous performance as 17-year- old Elio, who falls hopelessly in love with Oliver, which rather confuses his feelings for the lovely neighbouring girl, Marzia, whom he’s known for years and who is just as confused by Elio’s hot and cold love.
It will be labelled a “gay” movie, but it’s more about desire, awakening, appetite and experience than anything else, which may offend a more radical crowd but it won me over with its sheer romanticism and lyricism, the buzz of insects and the prospect of the housekeeper’s lunches. One could accuse it of indulgence, but then again, that’s exactly what the film’s about and when it feels this giddy, you can’t have too much of a good thing.
Guadagnino is carving a niche as the supreme international stylist of current European cinema, and following on from I Am Love and A Bigger Splash, Call Me By Your Name will propel him further up the ranks of Italian film makers – he seems easier working internationally than Sorrentino or Garrone, effortlessly weaving global stars into his elite Italian stylings. Any film that can feature in its end credits both “Cultural Anthropologist” and FR David’s 80s euro-smash Words deserves to be a hit.