Call Me By Your Name that've been plunking around in my head since the last big piece I wrote over at The Film Experience, and two factors have conspired over the past few days to make it happen (it is happening right now, you see). First off there was that question at the Q&A this past weekend with Timothée Chalamet that I posted video of, the terrible one about whether he and Armie had discussed the sexual roles Elio and Oliver would take in the bedroom - which was the "top" and which was the "bottom." Here's that video:
And the second factor that's got me yapping more is this lovely review of the film by Tomas Trussow at Film inquiry; specifically this section from it, which brings up the pan out the window which I went into a detailed defense of myself in my last piece:
"When they finally consummate their relationship, Guadagnino pans to the bedroom window—but not out of prudishness. It is rather a normalizing gesture, since for time immemorial, a pan away from the lovemaking couple has been a traditional feature in cinematic romances. It is to give them their privacy, as well as to give our imaginations a stake in the process.
Here, Guadagnino seems to say, the love of two men now belongs in that tradition. Desire is not always dependent on whatever is made explicit, and here, it is enough to imagine the intensity of love that no actor—not even actors as extraordinary as Chalamet and Hammer—can reproduce as convincingly as two people so madly in love as Elio and Oliver are."
Trussow's piece lays out the structure of the film nicely - how its split into thirds, with Elio coming to realize his attraction to Oliver in the first third, with Elio pursuing Oliver in the second, and with their post-consummation bliss through its end in the final act. The turning point from the second to the third act is when Elio & Oliver have sex and the camera pans out the window, and it seems to be foundational to the structure of the film that the two of them be on equal footing in our minds at that moment. The audience shouldn't be thinking about one dominating the other - that moment is about them finally being on the same page, eye to eye.
The book, of course, has time for a back and forth - the two characters trade roles in bed as Aciman lengthily details their lovemaking over the span of their final couple of weeks together. That's the benefit of writing a book, which is not the same as writing a basic three act film. And it seems to me Guadagnino made the right choice to entirely circumvent the power conversation at that moment, and focus instead on finally immediately realizing Elio and Oliver as equals, partners, joined side by side like those twin beds I wrote about in my other piece. Even if you think the conversations around passive versus active roles in gay sex are silly and unnecessary like I do there's no denying that they interject themselves into the conversation whether you want them to or not. And that's not the conversation this film needs to have to work.