Three Backsides Over Northern Italy: “Call Me By Your Name” (2017)

This is brilliant.

Alby Seeing You

CMBYN-Meet2

Timothée Chalamet’s backside will go down in history as one of the greatest actors of his generation.  When Elio meets Oliver for the first time in 2017’s Call Me By Your Name, we see his face but briefly in the mirror.  As they separate from their handshake, Oliver’s reflection obscures Elio.  Thus begins the first of a recurring series of shots throughout the film in which Elio, at his most vulnerable, never shows his face.  Rather, we always find ourselves behind him, not quite catching up cinematically to moments that traditionally would see dramatic close-ups and intense stares.

After that first, crucial meeting, three more moments define his role in Call Me By Your Name.  Each one comes at important plot points within the narrative, giving us Elio willingly vulnerable to the situation at hand.  But, almost paradoxically, it is within these moments that he becomes empowered, stronger. …

View original post 1,386 more words

Advertisements

“Coco” Q&A with Adrian Molina & Matthew Aldrich

On Tuesday January 09, I had the opportunity to attend a special screening of Coco, followed by Q&A with co-director/co-screenwriter Adrian Molina and co-screenwriter Matthew Aldrich. This was my fourth time seeing the film and, like all great movies, I find my love for it only growing with each additional viewing.

To paraphrase, some of the insights they shared included:

  • Originally, Coco was going to be more of a “traditional” musical featuring a whole score of songs by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, but after several rounds of rough screenings it was decided the feel didn’t fit what the team intended. Of the many songs the Lopez duo had written, only “Remember Me” remains.
  • An early concept was that the Rivera family, who has written off music, would be cursed to only sing (never speak) in the afterlife. I’m ok that they dropped this idea!
  • With so much effort put into world-building, it allowed the production crew to more easily adjust the story as needed. If the sets were locked down, a scene could be staged, re-iterated, or cut out, without impacting the place itself.
  • The Land of the Dead represented in the film is that of Santa Cecilia, the home of Miguel and the Rivera family. The marigold bridge from the graveyard is a portal from Santa Cecilia to the Land of the Dead, and the other bridges connect the afterlife to other villages; the idea being, every place in the land of the living has its own corresponding Land of the Dead.
  • In earlier drafts of the script, the overall approach to death was to “move on” and “get over it,” which didn’t feel true to the story they were trying to tell. With additional research and contributions by cultural consultants, the message pivoted to one of remembering, rather than moving on from, the loss of loved ones. This more authentically represents what Día de los Muertos is about: to remember those we’ve lost.

coco-concept-art-slice-600x200

Weekly Round-Up: January 07-13, 2018

  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) – I went in pretty blind and was not prepared for this expertly written, emotionally gripping story of a woman’s fight for justice. Writer/director Martin McDonagh fully develops the three lead characters, seemingly everyday people, into near-mythic proportions. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
  • The Disaster Artist (2017) – Good-hearted tale of friendship and the struggles of Hollywood, as experienced by Tommy Wiseau and the making of his infamous The Room. James Franco is fully committed to his portrayal of Wiseau, and consistently energizes the film even when it (occasionally) loses steam. RECOMMENDED.
  • Coco (2017) – I simply can’t get enough of this movie. One of its many strengths is that every time I watch it, a different theme or moment affects me that I hadn’t noticed in previous viewings. The painful tragedy between Hector and Mama Imelda won this round. Read my original review here, and this one is absolutely REQUIRED.
  • Jabberwocky (1977) – I sometimes struggle with the works of the Monty Python crew, but this oddball fantasy-comedy felt well-grounded and had plenty of dry humor to stay entertaining. It seemed longer than its 100-odd minutes runtime, but I still enjoyed it. RECOMMENDED.
  • I, Tonya (2017) – I know nothing of sports, and even less about ice skating, but this razor-sharp comedy-drama about one of the most infamous rivalries in American athletics is a pure shot of adrenaline, injected by Margot Robie’s killer lead performance. If The Disaster Artist is a commentary on the creative process, I, Tonya is a close-up on the dedication and sacrifices athletes make to get to the top. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
  • It (2017) – Easily my favorite horror film of 2017, and possibly my favorite since The Witch almost two years back, this scary movie about a demon shape-shifting clown is grounded by excellent performances by its young cast and a top-notch script. REQUIRED.
  • Dunkirk (2017) – Dunkirk had moments of inspired direction of wartime events, but offered little in terms of character development or even creating an emotional arc. The tone of the movie felt the same the entire time, which may have been Nolan’s intent, but didn’t take me on much of a journey. NOT RECOMMENDED.

What did you watch last week?

Call Me By Your Name (2017)

The novel Call Me By Your Name is a deliberately paced, murky tread through memory. It condensates events and conversations to fill an eternal moment in the coming-of-age of Elio, a young man falling in love for the first time. Its sensual language and cerebral longing make it an enjoyable read, to be sure, but its tone as a memory, looking back from a future era, mute the people, places, and colors of the world André Aciman paints for us.

The film Call Me By Your Name is anything but. The opening, youthful, exuberant, joyful piano chords of “Hallelujah Junction – 1st Movement” accompanying vibrant photos of rusted classical art snap us awake, into an invigorating contrast between young and old, observing a long-gone past with an audacious burst of life.

Timothée Chalamet is a marvel as Elio, a perfectly realized young man with all the naivete, self-hatred, bullishness, impulsiveness, and passivity of anyone on the brink of adulthood. He spends the summers in Italy with his parents, who host academics to assist with his father’s archaeological work. This fateful year, his family takes in Oliver (Armie Hammer), a sturdy, confident foil to the unpredictable Elio.

Italian summers must be very hot, because the two spend much of the film shirtless and somewhere between lounging around the shaded house and going swimming, a spark between the two grows into an undeniable passion and nearly obsessive romance. Elio and Oliver become inseparable and share profound intimacies. In one touching moment after making love, Oliver asks Elio to “Call me by your name and I’ll call you by mine,” as their bodies and hearts join together to become one.

The seasons change, and the summer must end. But Elio learns the painful lesson that love is more than being with the person you’ve found, but also growing from and taking on what you’ve learned from them. Elio’s father (played by the excellent character actor Michael Stuhlbarg) urges his son to find meaning and solace in having such a love at all.

In the film’s profoundly moving final shot, the fate of Elio’s future with Oliver is sealed; the camera lingers on the cyclone of emotions swirling on his face, as his parents and household help prepare a Hanukkah feast in the background. The tragic reality of young love, and being forced to sit with that feeling as the world goes on with or without you, is a difficult ending to leave us with, but it’s not so far from real life.

Call Me By Your Name‘s great triumph is this spectacular balance between quieter, solemn moments with the life-affirming joy of young love, bicycling down the cobbled streets of rural Italy. Just as the moods and desires of Elio fluctuate, grow, and mature through the film, the tonal shift from connection to introspection takes us on the very same journey. “Call me by your name and I’ll call you by mine,” and the two become one.