Call Me By Your Name

 

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Northern Italy in 1983 is the setting for this adaptation of a novel by André Aciman.

 
Call Me By Your Name

Armie Hammer with Timothée Chalamet

 

Unexpectedly this is a distinguished film that brings together two directors. The filmmaker here is Luca Guadagnino, the Italian who made I Am Love (2009) and A Bigger Splash (2015), but the screenplay, based on a novel by André Aciman, is by the veteran director James Ivory. As a key figure in Merchant Ivory Productions the latter contributed to a number of screenplays for them including his adaptation with Kit Hesketh-Harvey of E. M. Forster's gay novel Maurice (1987), but he remains best known in his directing capacity. However, it would appear that he has long wanted to bring Aciman's novel of 2007 to the screen. The delay means that his treatment of this story about Elio, a 17-year-old exploring his sexuality and bonding with a more mature man during the latter's visit to the summer residence of Elio's parents, can be somewhat more explicit than might have been possible ten years ago.

 

The role of Elio is stunningly well played by Timothée Chalamet while Armie Hammer, giving his best performance to date, plays Oliver, the American who has come from New England to Italy to act as a research assistant to Elio's father. In the background, aided greatly by the colour photography of Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, Guadagnino conveys wonderfully the sense of a sun-drenched summer. Although Elio has a girlfriend in Marzia (Esther Garrel), his exploration of his own sexuality suggests that he is less bisexual than gay. Luckily for him, he has a father (Michael Stuhlbarg) who is liberal in his outlook, possibly influenced by his being an authority on the art of ancient Greece (the statuary viewed behind the film's opening credits has a distinctly homoerotic flavour).

 

As one would expect of James Ivory, his chosen material is in keeping with his artistic interests (references here to writers bring in mention of Herodotus and of Conrad (Heart of Darkness) while Elio's piano playing leads to talk of Bach, Liszt and Busoni). As a gay movie this is classy stuff, and that makes it closer to Tom Ford's A Single Man (2009) than to any other film. If I found Ford's piece the more emotionally involving, that is certainly not to deny the quality of the filming here and, even if the last scenes make the piece seem a bit overextended because of a series of scenes that delay the close, much of the film's success is down to Ivory's writing including a telling late scene between father and son. In one sense, the film is inevitably not up-to date: being set in the 1980s, attitudes portrayed reflect an era long before that of civil partnerships and gay marriage. But, if Forster with Maurice had to hide his novel during his lifetime, Ivory has happily lived long enough to see an age in which Call Me By Your Name can be brought to the screen in an open and honest way.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, Victoire Du Bois, Vanda Capriolo, Antonio Rimoldi, Elena Bucci, Marco Sgrosso, André Aciman, Peter Spears.

 

Dir Luca Guadagnino, Pro Peter Spears, Luca Guadagnino, Emilie Georges, Rodrigo Teixera and James Ivory, Screenplay James Ivory, from the novel by André Aciman, Ph Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, Pro Des Samuel Deshors, Ed Walter Fasano, Costumes Giulia Piersanti.

 

Frenesy Film/La Cinéfacture/Memento Films International/RT Features/M.Y.R.A. Entertainment/Water's End Productions-Sony Pictures.
132 mins. Italy/France/Brazil/USA. 2017. Rel: 27 October 2017. Cert. 15.