CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
Sony Pictures Classics
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Screenwriter: James Ivory, novel by André Aciman
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar
Screened at: Critics’ DVD, NYC, 12/3/17
Opens: November 24, 2017
There’s a reason that Americans are crazy about Tuscany, just one of the most beautiful spots in Northern Italy made up of many towns whose names nobody knows. But everyone knows the term “Tuscany” How can romance not flourish in a place like this? And in the summer! Falling in love is a piece of cake and you don’t even have to be as handsome as the two young fellows in this gorgeously photographed movie. It certainly helps that the dialogue is whip-smart, the lovemaking is torrid, and it’s a place where one nice seventeen-year-old is blessed with a father who is more understanding than any other three dads you can name. There’s little question that “Call Me By Your Name” is in the running for awards with even a potential nod to one skinny, sexually confused guy who plays and composes piano and guitar but needed a mentor to guide him to his official coming of sexual age.
With a 98% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes amid scores of reviews throughout the land, “Call Me By Your Name” focuses on two young men, one Oliver (Armie Hammer), a 24-year-old graduate student, and 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet), a protégé, if you will, a guy who at one point early in the story responds to the question, “What do you do in this town” with “You wait for summer to pass.” Little did he know that this, his eighteenth summer, would be a godsend. That’s a good word for it, because Oliver has a distinct resemblance to a Greek or Roman god, and is the subject of a graduate paper Oliver is researching while spending his summer in Tuscany at the invitation of Professor Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg). Each year the professor invites one such student to spend weeks in his spacious house and indulge in sumptuous dinners from Italy, the country with the world’s best cuisine.
Palermo-born Luca Guadagnino who directs, the son of an Italian father and Algerian mother who spent his childhood in Ethiopia, is best known perhaps for helming “A Bigger Splash,” also taking place during a vacation and putting Tilda Swinton in the principal role. But “Call Me by Your Name” is far and away his best work, taking advantage of cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom’s lenses with an elegant piano score, some of it performed by Elio. Since James Ivory’s screenplay adapts the novel by André Aciman, who is an Egyptian-born Sephardic Jew. Since a Jewish theme is present in this film, one suspects at least some autobiographical input.
Elio is sexually confused. At seventeen, he has a fling with a girl about his age who wonders whether Elio considers herself “his girl.” He may have wound up with her for a few months or years, but ultimately the two accept that they would be just friends. All that’s because Elio meets Oliver, a six foot five inch blond with movie-star beauty, confident almost to the point of arrogance, who mixes in with the older people in the village and especially with the family that has taken him in. It becomes clear to Oliver that Elio likes him and not only in a friend’s sort of way, but though the older man distances himself at first, perhaps because the boy is barely of age, nature kicks in, and as we know by now, “You can drive out nature with a pitchfork, but she keeps coming back.” –Horace.
Oliver wears the Star of David on his muscular chest. Soon enough Elio, who has hidden his Jewish identity to avoid sticking out in the village, now proudly copies his would-be sexual mentor. Their sexual activity is passionate and yet hardly pornographic, as director Guadagnino knows that the best way to show sensuality is to be discreet.
The movie is a switch for Armie Hammer, great-grandson of Armand Hammer, who usually plays action parts as with “The Lone Ranger,” and his skills are more than met by newcomer Timothée Chalamet, who has been kept busy by the movies and who has the luck to appear in “Lady Bird” as well—a film that you will see competing with this one for awards. An exhilarating job by all with an exceptional role by Michael Stuhlbarg, who delivers an emotionally affecting monologue to his son toward the conclusion.
Rated R. 131 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – A-
Acting – A
Technical – A
Overall – A-