Call Me by Your Name

Call Me by Your Name ★★★★★

Exquisite, potent sensuality.

“Call Me by Your Name” is not of this time. Oddly enough and thankfully so, there’ve been a few films to grace the silver screen of 2017 that seemingly transcend the very time of their releases and instantly travel to a far more amorous, distant era of cinema. It may lack the flesh and blood intentionality of names such as “Lawrence” and “Zhivago”, but Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” certainly recaptures the grandiose intricacy of David Lean’s staggering epics that are trademarks of the 50s and 60s, and of all-time. Though cynicism certainly overpowers romanticism in the dystopias of tomorrow, one cannot deny the hard-edge, kaleidoscopic nature that would’ve allowed Denis Villeneuve’s superb “Blade Runner 2049” to fit right into the science fiction currents of four decades ago (I do recognize that we already have “Blade Runner” for that period, but I prefer “2049” to it). Now, we arrive at Luca Guadagnino’s latest endeavor. Where could it fit? A neorealist portrait? A New Wave variant? 50s or 60s? In a way, finding associations like these may not even matter. I suppose I’m making them for the exact sake of making them. Regardless, what should be noted, if anything, is that Guadagnino’s “Call Me by Your Name” is a stunning masterwork that, like the other pictures mentioned here as well, certainly stands at the top of the 2017 pack.

Shots linger with honesty, sun-baked bodies curl and intertwine, and the fleeting nature of time certainly takes more than we ever expect. Guadagnino projects himself, simultaneously, as a restrained director and an explosive artist who has produced a piece that manages to be unbelievably specific, yet shockingly universal. The specificity with which he is able to capture the potency of Jame Ivory’s adaptation will rouse the aches of your heart, but never once by cheap, eye-rolling manipulation. The sting of this story is certainly earned with every passing moment, continuously moving us towards the cruelty that time and romance will inevitably have lying ahead in one’s life. That said, “Call Me by Your Name” utilizes its slow-churning pace to force us into existing, gratefully, within the film’s present. There’s no doubt to your knowledge that events will eventually reach their final port in the narrative, but you focus your absolute hardest, like Elio and Oliver, to be in the here and now. The future, as abstract and frightening as it may be, really doesn’t matter until it becomes the present. Once that level of concentration is achieved from your own willingness to commit, then Guadagnino’s film and you truly do become one, woven into the same tapestry of love and pain.

“Call Me by Your Name” is an extraordinarily rich and fulfilling experience. Guadagnino’s exceptional ability to somehow capture all five senses (thank you for the spot on observation, Alonso Duralde) with the intensity that he does is really an amazing feat to behold, especially considering the medium. It’s that gorgeous power that also allows the film to ring as true as it does. By experiencing the picture so fully thanks to how well the material has been realized by the entire cast and crew, flashes of your own past gain a newfound level of vibrancy. Suddenly, memories of your first love spring back to life and you quickly find yourself utterly reabsorbed by your own “Somewhere in Northern Italy” moments that’ll surely last a lifetime and from which you have definitely learned so much.

There’s a great amount to discuss, and definitely a great amount to praise, but masterpieces have their nasty ways of being certainly illusive for a moment or two. I mean, if it can be referred to as being a masterpiece, then much has already been determined. Still, I find myself lost on how to exactly funnel my admiration for Guadagnino and his film into a conclusion. One aspect of “Call Me by Your Name” that should be absolutely lauded, and has certainly gained much attention, is a monologue delivered by Michael Stuhlbarg near the film’s end. With out giving too much away, I find it quite safe to say that this fatherly lesson is one of the most beautiful and touching things that I have ever heard spoken in a film. It’ll leave you determined to live by its truths and ensure that others recognize the importance of the message it bears. That sermon is the very definition of excellence, much like the picture it is found within.

So haunting. So emotionally charged. So delicately wise. Goodness me, what a triumph “Call Me by Your Name” is.

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