Call Me By Your Name




The setting is the early 1980’s and Oliver (Armie Hammer), a handsome and brilliant young American scholar, has been invited to the lakeside villa in Italy of Mr. Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg), a distinguished professor of antiquities, to assist in his latest research project.  Hardly a purgatorial task as it mainly involves spending minimal time cataloguing and viewing classical statues brought up from the lake while passing most of the summer socializing with Perlman’s charming family, neighbors and friends.


The alluring Oliver is soon a figure of admiration for the local Lombardy ladies but he is also becoming strongly noticed by the Perlman’s moody, delicate and highly-strung son Elio (Timothée Chalamet).  Elio has a girlfriend named Marzia and at first it appears that Oliver may be attracted to her friend Chiara.  But as the lazy summer days drift past, Elio becomes more drawn to Oliver.  Initially, Oliver holds him at bay, perhaps realizing how impressionable and vulnerable he is, but the friendship grows increasingly intimate.


As with some of director Luca Guadagnino’s previous films (A BIGGER SPLASH : I AM LOVE), the combination of intellect, beauty, measured staging and pacing and deeply textured characters envelops the viewer in a sensuous shimmer.  Based upon the 2007 novel by André Aciman, the story turns on the developing affair between Elio and Oliver that is slow to build.  There is a floating languor about the casually seigneurial, intellectual, liberal and affluent life in the villa.  The Perlmans switch effortlessly from Italian to English to French.  Elio moves just as easily from expert playing of the piano to the guitar.  In all, a charming, cerebral, civilized milieu brought beautifully to life by the camera of Sayombhu Mukdeeprom.  It was adapted for the screen and written by James Ivory, the director of the famous Merchant-Ivory films that specialized in drama and passion simmering beneath the lustrous patina of elegantly crafted surfaces.


The standouts here are the trio of male principals.  Armie Hammer is ideal as the privileged, blue-blooded American keen to savor all Europe has to offer.  His Oliver is multi-layered and nuanced.  Chalamet is simply perfect as the indecisive youth buffeted by emotions he can neither control nor comprehend.  His nature is a combination of brash self-assurance and guarded naiveté.  And Stulbarg is a consummately skilled player who unfortunately all too often is sidelined in supporting roles.  I have thoroughly admired his work in some marvelous recent films.  BLUE JASMINE : TRUMBO :  LINCOLN : HITCHCOCK : MISS SLOANE are some and watch for him in the upcoming THE SHAPE OF WATER.  His Mr. Perlman here is a very complex character and almost steals the movie with a simply brilliant delivery of a lengthy and tricky speech to Elio in a late scene near the film’s end.  It is a truly riveting monologue and helps to show why James Ivory’s screenplay is one of the five ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’ nominations for the 2018 Writer’s Guild of America Awards (due on February 11, I think.)


Thus far, it has received three Golden Globe nominations for Best Motion Picture – Drama and both Hammer and Chalamet have received acting nominations.


I could see no fault in any way with this production.  It skillfully snares both the languidly seasonal haze of the floating summer mood but also carries the implicit warning of time closing in and how missed opportunities can never be recovered.


Superb film making on all levels and I will be very interested to see the Oscar nominations.  To overlook this would be a cinematic tragedy. 






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