Cruel Summer: The Films of Luca Guadagnino
In anticipation of the director's arrival in Melbourne, Lauren Valmadre, the Program Director at the Human Rights Arts & Film Festival, writes a few words on Luca Guadagnino, sunshine and sex.
This MIFF, there will be no better way to shake off the winter chill than with Luca Guadagnino’s sun-soaked, languid young love story, Call Me By Your Name. No one can quite so stylishly capture matters of the heart and desire like Guadagnino, and this Sundance critics' favourite is no exception. Set in the summer of ’83, in beautiful provincial Italy, it follows a tale of lust, love and ultimately loss between Elio and Oliver, expertly performed by rising star Timothée Chalamet and the brilliant Armie Hammer. With the film featuring extraordinary cinematography by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, MIFF 2010) and a dreamy original soundtrack from Sufjan Stevens, be ready to relive the exquisite pain (and pleasure) of first love all over again.
As MIFF is set to hold the Victorian Premiere of Call Me By Your Name with Guadagnino in attendance (get ready for some refreshingly candid Q&As), we thought it would be a good time to reflect on some of his other films that turn the heat up to 11.
I am Love (2009)
A very common entry point into Guadagnino’s film oeuvre and a damn fine place to start. With nods to Luchino Visconti’s 1963 film The Leopard (based on the novel by Giuseppe di Lampedusa), I Am Love is centred on the wealthy Recchi family on the cusp of great change and the fall of their textile empire. The suffocating traditions of Milanese aristocracy become too much for Emma Recchi (Queen Tilda Swinton) and as the snow melts and the first rays of spring sunlight beam through, Emma initiates an affair with local chef, Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini). As a general rule with Guadagnino’s films, if there’s sun in the sky, then there’s sex to be had. A la Emma and Antonio’s frolic in the fields. But arguably, the greatest pleasure enjoyed by Emma during the film is between her and a dish of prawn ratatouille.
A Bigger Splash (2015)
My favourite Guadagnino, and not just for Ralph Fiennes' ferocious dance moves to The Rolling Stones Emotional Rescue. Guadagnino’s take on Jacques Deray’s 1969 classic La Piscine is an explosive, hedonistic exploration of what really goes on beneath the surface (get it?) This film is scorching sunshine all the time, beautifully shot by Yorick Le Saux (also the DOP for François Ozon’s Swimming Pool) and featuring the absolute dream cast of Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson and Matthias Swoonhearts—I mean, Schoenaerts. This film not only marks yet another feature film collaboration between Swinton and Guadagnino, but also Raf Simons – who designed Swinton’s wardrobe for I am Love in minimalist chic Jill Sander, and elegant resort Christian Dior for A Bigger Splash (that white jumpsuit!). This salacious, sun-kissed erotic thriller is my all-time favourite summer movie and an absolute must-see.
Melissa P. (2005)
It’s very interesting to compare Guadagnino’s 2005 racy teen sexual-awakening film Melissa P. to Call me By Your Name, which he made over 10 years later. Both delve into first dalliances of sex, love and heartbreak with the former from a female point of view and the latter from a male perspective. Based on the controversial teen memoir 100 Strokes of the Brush Before Bed, Melissa P. relays the sexual exploits of a Lolita-esque Sicilian high-schooler who uses risqué sex to fight the anguish of her humiliating first sexual encounter on the first day of the summer holidays.
There’s a pivotal line delivered by Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg) in one of the most devastatingly beautiful moments of Call Me By Your Name, where he tells his son, “Don’t make yourself feel nothing so as not to feel anything. What a waste." This advice could not be more relevant to Melissa P. also, not to fall into total despair over the loss of first love. Hearts mend and soon enough it will be summer again.
Call Me by Your Name screens at 6.15pm on Friday 4 August and Sunday 6 August 2017. Luca Guadagnino if a guest of MIFF and will attend both sessions to introduce the film and participate in post-screening Q&As.
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