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Sundance 2017: Call Me By Your Name

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Director Luca Guadagnino brought us I Am Love –– a sumptuous cinematic amalgamation of food, romance and music. With Call Me by Your Name, he teases love and sex in much the same way but adds fitful youth into the blend. The texture of objects and the taste of sustenance is amplified by the desire for experience. A pervasive, sophisticated indulgence in pleasure is central to the story of Elio- an Italian-American 17-year-old who becomes smitten with visiting American Oliver (Armie Hammer) who comes to work for his professor father in Italy during the summer of 1983. Call Me By Your Name is an immersive, delightfully unrepentant dive into sexual fulfillment and burgeoning identities.

The male body is heavily gazed upon in Oliver’s studies of ancient sculptures but also as the camera follows the young men about in the public and private spaces of the Italian Riviera. Timothée Chalamet as Elio has a radiant and raw nervous energy to him. Emitting a curious lust and insecure yearnings with every action, he weaves messy physical ticks into Elio’s personality that add a jolting realism to the character. He feels and aches deeply for Oliver while navigating the confusing wants of others.  Two haunting songs in the film by Sufjan Stevens play into Elio’s spastic and obsessive self with repetitious but purposeful lyrics.

Armie Hammer is finally given a role that suits his straightforward American demeanour and athletic figure. His cartoonish turns in previous efforts like The Lone Ranger and Mirror Mirror reflect none of what is seen in this film. He commands scenes with his deep-voiced authority but projects a goofy excess seeking spirit by way of spontaneously joyful dancing and swimming. His lanky form lingers on screen in a way that male bodies aren’t usually viewed- in a sustained and objectified manner. Male bodies are both active and passive in Call Me by Your Name –– giving way to a playful sensuality that highlights the best of both men.

Michael Stuhlbarg as Elio’s father renders a kind and knowing man who wants nothing but the best for his son. A transcendent speech of his near the end of the film is saturated with incredible love and laced with wisdom, empathy and encouragement. The performance seems to just barely hold back a floodgate of repressed emotion coming forth from his dignified scholar. Stuhlberg’s gloriously articulate ruminations about mutual adoration and aging surprise the viewer with their moving honesty and a mature, masculine embrace of otherness in his household.

Call Me By Your Name wallows in sex without going so low that the relationship is nothing without it. A scene involving a piece of fruit is hedonistically daring but provocative in a way that ultimately promotes a better emotional understanding between the two. An inspired respite from trite romances, Call Me By Your Name awakens the senses and beckons you to experience life fully while you can.

10/10

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