Saturday, November 27, 2010

I Am Love

2010, Italy, directed by Luda Guadagnino (Original title: Io sono l'amore)

Luca Guadagnino's film is an adept and enthralling latter-day re-working of some of the melodramatic territory of both Sirk and Hitchcock, but without the literal-mindedness of Todd Haynes's Far From Heaven, a compelling film that nonetheless remained tied rather too closely to its inspiration, unable to imagine the same emotional territory in a different setting.

Hitchcock's influence is most obvious in Guadagnino's use of music, heightening already tense scenes, or adding danger where none initially seems present - and pushing right to the limits of the absurd, such as in a sequence where Tilda Swinton, the film's central character, accidentally runs into a chef friend of her son's. His profession is central to the film's theme of food as a method of communication and as a store of memories; a particular soup recipe, borne from Russia to Italy, is at the heart of the narrative, precipitating the film's most shocking, change of tone (which recalls a similar moment in another Italian film, The Best of Youth).

There's an extraordinary sensuousness to the film, where everything is heightened, whether it's the intensity - almost frenzied - of the music, the close-ups of glistening food, the quick rhythm of a dash through a town, or the abstract, sun-dappled body parts on a lazy summer afternoon (Guadagnino slows the film right down for this sequence, as if to emphasize each blade of grass, each breath, recalling the languid pace of Apichatpong Weerasethakul).

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States