Call Me By Your Name
By Jay Armstrong
Call Me By Your Name speaks directly to the pendulum shift inherent in enthralled youthful all and everything emotions, giving warmth to the beauty of confusion and a peripheral glance at the often remembered yet hardly realized enchantment of the moment. It is a film powerful, honest, bold as ideally crafted like nothing else we have seen this side of Y Tu Mamá También . Certainly both of 2017’s crème de la crème Moonlight and 20th Century Women find their underlying spirit magnified through the lens of Luca Guadagnino, not taking away from those films or to slight their importance in any way but neither comes close to burying the viewer in themselves the way this film does. It demands to be personalized and succeeds brilliantly at doing so. Using Italy in 1983, Call Me By Your Name allows us to witness things as they should be, playing with what might have been and what was, doing so in nostalgic optimism without ever circling in on ideological. Call Me By Your Name is truthful, yet only in as truthful a way as a memory or broken heart could ever be, at best it is a film as blind as our souls yet equally as alive.
For Guadagnino the film is a natural progression. Having spoke to challenged societal internalized norms of sexuality in I Am Love and then to shift out of the emotional depth into external friction with a heavy focus on audio triggers, tone, and temper with A Bigger Splash, in Call Me By Your Name we see the perfection of both stylistic approaches combined. The earlier artistic risks of his films merely touched on (filters, ambiance, interwoven use of a solid soundtrack swaying between overbearing and subtly interwoven within the landscape,etc,) are revisited once more only with this film they are brought to the foreground with bravado. Thus we begin to sense the developing presence of a new great hinting that in the annals of history somewhere between Jean Cocteau and Jean-Luc Godard we may soon find this once unrealized genius cataloged. Guadagnino respects the integrity of the viewer, expects it even, Call Me By Your Name is a precise reflection of just that. We as viewers do not need to be coddled, we do not need to be spoon fed tension between characters or find ourselves wading in vague exposition in unnecessary unrealistic conversations. He is one of the few directors who refuses to allow passive participation yet forms the story to reveal itself universally while feeling deeply personal. The idea anyone would ever blasphemy Dario Argento by attempting to recreate one of his films is appalling to say the least, I’m not quite ready to give Guadagnino a free pass for attempting it on next year’s Suspiria, though after leaving the theater on Call Me By Your Name my only dominate thought is if he pulls it off then what else will he need to prove to god or to himself as to whether such potential has been fully achieved?
With deserved focus going to the co-leads in the film it is Michael Stuhlberg who, as with his role in The Shape Of Water, gives arguably the strongest performance yet somehow finds himself an afterthought beneath the shear power of the all. Every scene in Call Me By Your Name is shot memorably so to say one has dominance above the others would be far too biased but without giving away much– it is the scene with Stuhlberg and Timothée Chalamet having an open yet hushed conversation on the couch near the end of the film which shook me to tears. It was the precise scene the entire film has been building up to yet only in fragmented subtle allusions. When it happens there is a relief in going there yet suspicion throughout is in the back of our minds that such a reveal would be merely hypothetical, Stuhlberg is relaxed, resigned, precise yet nervous, the delivery could not have been better in a thousand takes, the weight is magnificent.
There is an arc between Chalamet and Stuhlberg which pivots on Armie Hammer who carries the film in a way only an elite few others would have been capable of doing. Hammer embodies the natural in delivery, creating the ideal contrast to the bordering pretentious front Chalamet’s character defensively portrays, working as a buffer between the two choices of development; the future in following the footsteps of the father (Stuhlberg), steps of knowledge yet unfortunate resignation, and the future we all idealize becoming yet ultimately fear we will fall short of, in hopes someday we we will read once more over the words of Jung and feel he spoke on our behalf, “of course, if these persons had filled up the beaker of life earlier and emptied it to the lees, they would feel quite differently about everything now; they would have kept nothing back, everything that wanted to catch fire would have been consumed, and the quiet of old age would be very welcome to them.” The heart of this film is Hesse through and through.
Coming of age films all too rarely lose their passion by the lack of truth. It is no simple task to express the alive and the confusion of touching the all in those fading days of youth when the near violent sweep within us from weeping sadness and blind burning excitement shifts in a single breath leaving us lost as our knowledge fails us beneath the screaming of our hearts swaying in the now. How hard it is to put into a thousand words by the most skilled writers such a complex period of life and yet Guadagnino has done just that. Call Me By Your Name reads more than is watched, it is an impressive timeless film to say the least, no compliment would be unfounded. What can be said other than you must see it for yourself?