Call Me by Your Name

Call Me by Your Name ★★★½

Ivory's writing surpasses Guadagnino's directing to be frank, and it all comes down to the talent he gained from his decades-long interaction with the heroine Prawer Jhabvala. This elevates the film to heights of graciousness hardly achieved with this kind of themes normally. The air of Italian aristocracy is there, not in a turn-of-the-Century Italy, but in a more modern context where generations were sold sex, drugs and rock and roll as a solution, as the son of American counterculture liberation from the "oppression of the authorities".

Some minutes in, I immediately perceived the menacing nature of the protagonistic relationship at hand, and its inevitably doomed future. This relationship begins with an invasion of privacy that Elio finds disturbing. Olivier, through manipulation, masquerades this as an "innocent act" by using her girlfriend as a facade and convincing both that Elio was tense. The first physical contact is a disturbing one and sets the foundations for the upcoming themes.

I had that disturbing scene fixated on my mind throughout the film, not betting necessarily in favor of the screenplay bringing it out to remembrance again, but it does. After the key sexual scene in the film, which not ironically causes Oliver feel guilt and worry for "hating the thought that maybe he may have messed Elio up", he refers to that volleyball instance as "molestation", which surprised me to a great extent, because it was.

However, it is not the sex scene which I consider pivotal in explaining the relationship between the two, which features the film's title word by word, but the peach scene. You have a precocious teenager very much into sexual innocence and curiosity, inexperienced and confused, against a fully conscious man with a selfish agenda. The peach is just a game for Elio, something private, something that Olivier finds as an opportunity to abuse Elio emotionally. He's not concerned with being discovered, but of messing up Elio. It's his conscience working against him because he knows he's doing harm.

Pedophilia is not the issue here; debates have been carried regarding age consent, a debate I'm frankly not willing to engage in this particular case. It all comes down to sexual maturity. Physically, you can be older than emotionally and/or spiritually. The issue here is, as it has been well stated before, abuse and violation of consent, especially when a grown man takes advantage of a clearly naive young man where he couldn't even get the volleyball event as a "sign" being sent to him, and who was currently in a relationship. He involves the young man in emotional abuse, confusion and pushes him to infidelity.

Is the film glamorizing these themes? Is the film being hypocrite? I think it isn't. I think it has profoundly smart writing in dissecting why we have tears in the final shot (a grand one indeed). The final outcome is predictable, not because of being stories like these, but because of all of the greatly written precedents. Olivier is an animal, really, like those portrayed in Rohmer's moral tales. Speaking of which, this has a striking resemblance to the themes and even scenery of the masterpiece Claire's Knee (1970).

Technically, I wouldn't say it's puzzling, but it is ironic that Florence was captured through an enamoring, intimate and sometimes impressionistic lens in a greater fashion in 1985 (A Room with a View) than in this Italian film. Cinematography is quite decent when depicting landscapes and intimacy, but not when exploring architecture, unlike Tony Pierce-Roberts would do in Ivory's features. Editing also has many weird cuts, such as right after Elio plays "the young version of Bach" in the piano or when Olivier says "that might be the kindest thing anybody has said to him in months" and rolling into the water. It's quite uneven visually, but with great depth in writing, as mentioned.

Bottom line, it's a good film that gladly showed Ivory's talents as a writer when he shone as a director for decades, from India to the United Kingdom, but people calling it an inspirational tale of first love and a moving romantic film are, in my opinion, reading this in an entirely wrong and disturbing light. It is about the violation of innocence and how youth is destroyed today through confusion and a culminating disappointment.


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