Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Take Me Back To Somewhere In Northern Italy

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Perhaps you saw via my Instagram that I went and saw Call Me By Your Name a 12th (and most probably final) time in the theater last night. That's a lot of times to see a movie over the span of four months, you guys! My first time seeing it was on October 3rd (here's my immediate dumbstruck reaction in case you missed it) and I'd seen it three times within a week - it was hopeless from there, I was lost. But I haven't run out of new thoughts about the movie - each time brings something. A bit I missed, a sudden new feeling - they've stopped being earth-shattering, but little bit by bit they add up. 

Like how I think this moment in the movie (it's Oliver and Elio's very first "Morning After") might be the most beautiful that Armie looks in the entire film... making it by extension probably the most beautiful he's ever looked on screen, ever. And because this film's a tactile paradise you can actually hear the sound of Oliver running his fingers along his mouth here, stubble brushing against skin. Bliss.

There's also a wonderfully playful bit of camera-work that, like so much of the film, says so much through absence - Elio comes out to the table and kisses his mother Annella on the cheek, and then...

... moves along and watches him kiss his father, and the camera follows him over to his seat that's there is the slightest almost imperceptible lean, as Oliver fills the left-hand side of the frame...

... that makes you think Elio is going to also lean over and plant a sloppy one on Oliver too. For just a second. That it doesn't happen is a thing you feel though, which fits in with what I had to say in my long-form piece on the movie at The Film Experience - although this world is safe and Elio's parents are what we dream all of our parents could be or could have been these two still aren't free, they still have to be secretive. I love watching Annella in this scene...

Her glances feel so pregnant with meaning every single time - Amira Casar makes so much out of this role, you guys. I paid a lot of specific attention to her this time through and actually noticed a quick moment I never had before! Imagine that being possible! The scene is actually a nice mirror of the one above too...

"We almost had sex last night..."

This edit always gets a laugh every time I seen it with an audience - the implication being, as Elio pauses for dramatic effect and we see him & Oliver in the frame together, that Elio is telling his father that the two of THEM almost had sex last night. He quickly adds "Marzia and me" and diffuses the sudden gay spectacle he'd provided his father, but the seed (as it were) is planted.

The comedy continues as we see that Annella is there too and only supposedly half-hearing their conversation - oh no, what will Mom think, we're conditioned to wonder. But the film once again has no interest in traveling down that road and immediately moves along. But here's the moment I missed until last night...

There's overlapping conversation at this point and our eyes are supposed to be on the other side of the frame (which I edited out above) but Annella comes up behind Oliver right here and hands him some of the plant we saw her trimming in the previous shot and tells Oliver to "Here, smell this."

That minx! (Or as Elio puts it, "Funny witch.") And smell it he does. Of course he does. As if a woman this kind and generous would be offering him anything but sensorial ecstasy. It's a barely there moment but underlines my case about the generosity and kindness of the Perlmans and by extension the film - Annella and by extension Luca want you to smell, to taste, to enjoy.

We see it time and time again though - Annella doesn't have a sarcastic, unkind bone in her body. When Elio early on wonders if he might "grow to hate" Oliver she smacks her lips and says "No sweetheart," and late in the film when  Oliver makes the joke about just going home to pack and come right back to live with them she takes it in with all seriousness, telling him he's "welcome," and you know she means it.

I know I have but I hope every single one of you have met a woman like Annella at least once in your life - someone whose goodness radiates off of them like sunshine; someone who only wants the people around her to smell and taste wonderful, beautiful things. Never forget that these are Annella's Trees and we're just grateful to have some time among them.


9 comments:

Tom M said...

Following from this post: i'm curious what you think of the parents' relationship? what missed opportunity is dad thinking about at the end in his own life? how does that complicate his happy marriage? was it a man? I think we all focus on what he's communicating for Elio but I am struck but what it hints at about the man himself...but I can't quite put my finger on what it is.

JA said...

I can't entirely put my finger on it either, Tom. I'm kind of embarrassed to admit that even after reading the book a couple of times and seeing the movie a couple of times it never struck me that what Elio's Dad could be talking about is a possible relationship with a man that he might have but never had - it was my boyfriend who first floated the idea to me. And since then i have heard a ton of people see it the same way, but honestly I really have to force that viewpoint on myself. It still doesn't feel 100% natural to me.

I think when he's talking about never having had what Elio & Oliver had he's just saying he never had an overwhelming in-over-his-head love experience like the one they did - that his relationship with Elio's Mom came later, after he'd already been through a few fine but not stratospheric relationships, and he wished he might have had that experience. Every time I re-watch the movie I try to see the gay thing and I just don't think it's necessary. Possible, i suppose, but I don't think we need to read his words that way.

Nick said...

I adore how you analyze scenes. Such emotion and detail and passion. As a filmmaker it gives me great joy to see people like you enjoy and delve into the art form like that. I have seen CMBYN 6 times now and am just as mesmerized as the first time I saw it. Will probably try and catch it in theaters a few more times as nothing is as immersive as a giant screen in a dark room.

Ben said...

I think you can make an argument that Prof. Perlman might have had some uncertainty about his sexuality. I sometimes got the impression he may have had some attraction to Oliver that he lived vicariously through his son. But that's just one possible interpretation, and not necessarily the most robust or likely.

Owen Walter said...

I agree with you that Professor Perlman’s speech doesn’t need the gay subtext, that it may be slightly too much: not quite as subtle about human desire as the rest of the movie is. The only “data” that gives me pause are the lines about the statues that Perlman delivers to Oliver. I think we’re so used to hearing those sensuous words about male bodies from the perspective of Oliver and Elio’s relationship that we forget that Perlman is a classical archeologist who is a connoisseur of the male form.

Anyway, thank you for all of your coverage of the movie. This post is a delightfully minute analysis, with a wonderful shoutout to Amira Casar, whose work in the film hasn’t been praised enough, but I also enjoy your simple, unapologetic adorations. I went through your entire archive about the film, as part of my own less-developed obsession. Even if you don’t rewatch the film, I hope you’ll continue to post about it, just as I imagine Elio sniffing the billowy shirt long after Oliver was gone.

Madi Mambetov said...

I just wanted to say that it gave me such pleasure to read your post and all the comments underneath. (But if I must add, having read the book several times and watched the movie 4 times now, and both gave me impression that professor Perlman meant not the gay thing, but the intense thing. Many straight men in their youth don't dare to come closer to object of their desire for so many reasons... So basically I'm with you on that, Jason)

Anonymous said...

My only issue with the movie is that they both totally would have been wearing briefs, not boxers. The rest of the costuming was so spot on that it kind of bugged me.

Tom M said...

I agree! Wasn’t thinking it had to be gay. And I think it is that “unknowable” quality of what he might be referring to that I find fascinating. There’s a richness to his interior life that the movie (and actor) fill but don’t explain. It just makes me look at he and his wife and what they are feeling about elio even more interesting. So rich...

Anonymous said...

Still no gif showing buttocks of Armie Hammer?