“Call Me by Your Name” is a gay love story, about a precocious teen and a 30-ish mature writer. The relationship develops gradually over a summer in Tuscany, and according to the novel by Andre Aciman, as adapted to the screen by James Ivory and director Luca Guadagnino, the tension and “suspense” keep up, too. It’s harder to do this with a relationship over even several months than something that evolves over a short time like a weekend, as in my story “The Ocelot the Way We Is”, which happens over a weekend in the woods and is interrupted at the end with external catastrophe. There is a sense of possible ruin here, too, but I’ll come back to that.
Oliver, played by Armie Hammer (one of the bitcoin “Winklevii” from “The Social Network” where he played both twins) arrives for the summer and stays in the home of antiquities professor Perlman (Michael Sthulbarg) almost in Airbnb style. The teenager Elio (Tomothee Chalamet) in fact yields his room to the guest and stays in a connecting room. The host family is Jewish, which the script makes something of but it really doesn’t affect the story.
But Elio is no ordinary teen. He is verbal and well-read, plays concert-level piano (like Nolan in my story) and transcribes piano pieces. Presumably he composes also. He is particularly interested in his games with a Bach chorale which he transcribes in successive stages as if Liszt, Busoni, and even Poulenc might have treated it. The soundtrack has piano music of a number of composers including Satie, Ravel, and John Adams. Chalamet plays the music himself (except some of it sounds like two pianos.) The music credits rolled too fast, and I couldn’t note all the composers or composition names. Much of the music was eclectic and impressionistic. (I did wonder about all the cigarette smoking, but that was more acceptable in the early 80s than it is now.)
Elio starts spending time biking into town with Oliver and, after Oliver notes his intellect, Elio confesses there is one thing he doesn’t “know”. In fact, during the course of the film he gets laid heterosexually and seems to have been serious about girlfriends. But he also is starting to fall in love with Oliver.
Elio is 17, which in Italy would be over the age of consent. Although the camera emphasizes the difference in ages, it is Elio who is a bit seductive and Oliver cautious. Were this to happen in the US where the age of consent is 18, there would indeed be a legal angle (which my controversial script “The Sub” raised when I was substitute teaching a decade ago). Keep in mind that Elio is presented as extremely gifted and charismatic, almost as much as possible for any teen. The film at one point shows a sign indicating the year of 1981, which was the first year that CDC reported AIDS, and you wonder at the end what might happen in the future, especially if Oliver had already been infected. There is a curious scene in the middle of the film where Elio has a severe nosebleed, but that doesn’t go anywhere. In the epilogue, Elio’s father actually becomes supportive of Elio’s direction in life, to come out.
Tuscany coast, Wiki .
|Name:||“Call Me By Your Name”|
|Director, writer:||Luca Guadagnino, James Ivory, Andre Aciman|
|Format:||1.85:1; English, French, Italian, German; set in 1981 in Italy|
|When and how viewed:||Angelika Mosaic, 2017/12/20 late PM fair crowd|
|Companies:||Sony Pictures Classics, Frenesy, Cinefacture|
The theater offered a 10-minute short before the show from Marriot’s “Storybooked” series about artist Paula Wilson, “Weaving Threads Between the Ancient and Contemporary”, filmed in the Andes in Peru, stressing barren landscapes with copper-red mountains as well as Inca ruins and weaved clothing.
(Posted: Wednesday, December 20, 2017, at 10:30 PM EST)