This week, the Fresh Films crew sings the praises of Call Me by Your Name.
Elliot Kronsberg: So Marco, you were in France?
Elliot: Where in France?
Marco: I lived in Paris. I studied at Sciences Po. I was in the 13th Arrondissement.
Elliot: How much French did you actually learn? Can you speak it fluently now?
Marco: Un petit.
David: Can you do the entire episode in French?
David: Why not?
Marco: Pourquoi I don’t speak French.
David: That’s upsetting
Marco: Who you know who does speak French
Marco: That characters in Call Me by Your Name. Welcome to Fresh Films, we’re a podcast devoted to reviewing films that are in theaters right now in Evanston. I’m Marco Cartolano. And with me today are David Gordon.
Marco: And Elliot Kronsberg
Elliot: Hi. So today we’re going to be talking about Call Me By Your Name. The newest film by Luca Guadagnino, I think is how you pronounce his name. So this film is about an Italian-American teenager living in Italy in the 1980s with his father whose kind of an archaeologist, anthropologist. This grad student come to stay with them and he develops a love affair with the grad student.
Marco: And just to say the student is played by Timothee Chalamet and the grad student is played by Armie Hammer. And with a very special supporting role, we have Michael Stuhlbarg as the dad.
David: So what did you guys think of Call Me By Your Name.
Marco: This was a very anticipated film for me and I think that it met those expectations. Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet did a great job as these two lovers who manage to be very subtly flirty and very passionate.
David: Yeah. A lot of good moments are when Armie Hammer is flirting with Timothee, what his name how do you pronounce?
David: Chalamet. Okay I’ll just call him Timothee. For example at one point He walks up to him and he just starts rubbing his shoulders while they’re both not wearing shirts. And I’m like “Wow!” That is very forward because I thought that it was going to be a twist that they were gay actually. So it just took me by surprise.
Elliot: Yeah that’s something I really liked about the film was that at first you get these not so subtle hints like the shoulder rubbing And Timothee is a little confused. He thinks at first that Armie Hammer’s character doesn’t like him because he’s kind of cold but then he does these really forward kind of actions. And then sort of without any kind of grand machinations or anything, Timothee Chalamet is just like “I’ve got something to tell you,” and Armie Hammer knows and right after they kind of begin this love affair and it’s really beautiful. Sure people probably have concerns about the age gap within the film. Timothee Chalamet is supposed to be like 17 and Armie Hammer is supposed to be in his early 20s. It might seem kind of weird especially in this day and age. But, I don’t know. In the back of my head I knew that was the case but I kind of fell in love with their love. And it was amazing.
David: What led you to do that? To have that experience of falling in love with their love? What made this film so beautiful?
Elliot: Well, so Timothee Chalamet’s character. I expected him to be really grown up I guess. I thought having seen Timothee Chalamet in a couple of supporting roles, I thought he’d be full of himself. But, he was just a kid. He did these awkward or kind of cringey things sometimes. He kind of threw fits. Not little kid fits. But,
Marco: Moody teenager fits.
Elliot: And it was just so realistic. Not that this film is all about gritty realism, it’s definitely not. I dunno, it’s just these little touches about the character that I not only related to but I think that you don’t really find them a lot in these sorts of films. Even coming of age films.Marco: And I’ll say this for Armie Hammer too. He has effortless charisma he’s like magnetic throughout. You see him dancing numerous times and you just want to dance with him. He has this presence of slacker cool but there’s something deep down simmering. There’s this desire to be with Timothee Chalamet’s character. That it’s both there’s a sense that he’s this charismatic person but you also get that sense that he’s also insecure and has multitudes to his personality as well.
[Excerpt, Call Me By Your Name]
Marco: Another thing I think that adds to this winning chemistry is the way that the film portrays them. This film is very much in love with both Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer’s bodies. There’s a lot of loving takes of how their bodies are sculpted. There’s a pretty on the nose comparison to sculptures at one point.
David: Yeah, there’s a big focus on their bodies. And some could argue that this is gratuitous but I think it’s trying to emphasize the physicality and by focusing and fixating on the physical between them it amplifies their spiritual connection and their love.
Elliot: What’s really interesting about the focus on bodies is that I read that in the original screenplay by James Ivory of Merchant Ivory fame had a lot of gratuitous nudity. Full frontal of both characters and the director cut all of it out. Even through that we’re always seeing their chests and their legs, you never see their genitals. Even the most graphic sex scenes are graphic not because you’re seeing these explicit body parts. You’re seeing something you don’t usually see in mainstream films.
David: And that has another interesting aspect of the film. The director manages to portray a relationship without fetishizing it. Which is a problem that films like Blue is the Warmest Color run into when the film just seems to have random sex scenes that are drawn out to portray the connection between the two characters. But this film chooses to be a little more subtle.
Marco: Yes, the director himself identifies as gay and I think that he really understand the need for sensitivity in how you portray the sensuality of these two characters. There has to be a level of eroticism to how their relationship is but it can’t be exploitative or else it becomes kind of Eurotrash. Now we focused a lot on Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet, but there’s a lot of other great supporting characters too. A special highlight is Michael Stuhlbarg as the dad who, for the most part is kind of an ancillary character but he has a very powerful monologue at the end that’s performed with warmth and knowledge that wraps the themes up very well. And I should make him a contender for best supporting actor. But, I doubt he will get it.
David: I think we’ve discussed each character’s relationship with one another, but moving away from that a little bit is the characters’’ relationship with the audience and the camera because each character uses sunglasses in a very simple way to show their connection to one another. For example Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet, they wear sunglasses and talk to each other when they’re not being serious or honest with one another and they quickly remove those sunglasses in moments when they’re being sincere. So i think that’s a really nice and simple way to show character intentions. And similarly, the camera does the same thing when it comes to placing characters behind certain objects. For example when Timothee is about to confess his feelings to Armie Hammer, Timothee walks in the foreground while Armie Hammer walks behind a fountain or a monument of some kind and that obscures him from the camera. Which is good because it parallels his relationship to the audience because the audience already knows Timothee’s feelings towards Armie Hammer from previous scenes but they aren’t sure of Armie Hammer’s feelings for Timothee’s. So we don’t know the extent of Armie Hammer’s feelings until they meet up at the end of the monument and they both are viewable by the audience once again. So that’s a lot of subtle things with blocking and cinematography that i think work really really well in this film.
Marco: Going forward with that with the cinematography in general. The cinematography is not flashy, per se, but it has a a lot of great touches to it. That scene you described is shot in one take for at least a good eight to ten minutes.
David: Eight to ten minutes? Holy shit. Was it actually eight to ten minutes?
Elliot: Yeah, I mean it was probably like a roll.
David: Damn, very impressive. Ok please continue.
Marco: There’s a very long shot of them just riding bikes outside the frame of the camera, which is very beautiful. There’s also like a few times when the film gets manipulated for effect. Like one time when Timothee Chalamet’s character is pondering his feelings, the film gets kind of blurry and a little messed up to enhance that sense of isolation.
David: Well, let’s go a little further than that. I feel that it has more to do with reminding the audience that this is an idealized portrayal of reality that can’t last rather than showing isolation. But I’m curious about what you guys think on that matter.
Elliot: I mean I definitely think they’re idealized because the love story is just, it’s like too good to be true and something’s got to break this. But when it’s not broken you just sort of realize that the relationship in the film is so amazing it’s portraying this idealized first love that one, you can’t find in reality and two, even the characters will never be really able to replicate it with other people.
David: As Michael Stuhlbarg says towards the end of the film.
Marco: A final thing I want to note is the importance of music in the film. Timothee Chalamet’s character is a musical prodigy. He transcribes music and he plays a lot of different types of music throughout. We also have a few key songs. Three Sufjan Stevens songs played throughout the film. Two in the film, one in the credits. The Sufjan Steven songs kind of capture this sense of intimacy while also you hear comparisons to mythology that make the story feel more idealized and mythic then it appears at first. So the music picked for it has a very pertinent effect
[plays “Mystery of Love”-Sufjan Stevens]
David: So let’s move into our final thoughts on the film. Who would like to go first?
Marco: This was one of my favorites of last year I think that it portrays romance with a subtle care while also a recognition that it’s idealized too. And I think it could become a new classic in LGBT cinema. I would really recommend this film. It has one of the most sensitive portrayals of love I’ve seen in a while. I think it has great music, it has very subtle cinematography and I would personally recommend it to anyone interested in seeing a very beautiful film. Elliot, what did you think about it?
Elliot: I love Call Me By Your Name so much. I thought the performances were fantastic, especially Timothee Chalamet who I’d only really seen in a couple supporting roles. I knew about Michael Stuhlbarg, Armie Hammer. But, Timothee Chalamet just portrays this teenager whose kind of in a million different worlds at once so well. Of course Sufjan Steven’s music, I really love it’s inclusion. Especially “Mystery of Love,” which I think was in the trailer for it. I recognized the song immediately and I got so excited when it was on and it’s been stuck in my head for almost a week. I don’t know whether this film will go down as a classic, but I know it’s one of my favorite films ever and I’m just so glad that someone made it even though I didn’t even know I wanted it until it was right there. So I would recommend it to everyone from children and grandmothers. Though both children and grandmothers probably will not understand all of it. I know my own grandmother was a little confused when she saw it. David, what are your thoughts?
David: Cool so, my thoughts on this film are that this film works in very simple ways that aren’t exactly subtle except from the subtle interactions between Armie Hammer and Timothee, the younger boy. However, the cinematography and the lush landscapes work really really well to highlight and amplify the performances, which also are very effective in portraying to gay lovers. So this film functions successfully in every single category and not only that, it functions successfully in creative ways. So this film consistently had my attention. And not to mention the beautiful long takes that we already discussed and the musical aspects. I don’t know this film just is perfect in every way. So I would recommend it to pretty much everyone. So yeah, those are my thoughts.
Marco: I’m Marco Cartolano
David: And I’m David Gordon
Elliot: And I’m Elliot Kronsberg. This has been Fresh Films. From NBN audio. You can find online at Northbynorthwestern.com under the audio section. We’re also on Apple podcasts. Thanks for the use of “Mystery of Love” by Sufjan Stevens.
[Excerpt from CMBYN]