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Call Me By Your Name

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Mar 13, 2018
Call Me By Your Name

Forget the squabbles about Armie Hammer (Was he miscast?) and the hair rending over the fact that the younger half of the sexual awakening partnership depicted in this film is supposed to be 17 years old. Because A., the age of consent laws are what they are, and at least this isn't the story of some middle-aged evangelical dude looking to marry a 13-year-old; goodbye, Kentucky, hello Italy. And B., let's face it -- no one raises a ruckus when it's a 17-year-old guy, or young woman, hooking up with a slightly older person of the opposite gender.

"Call Me By Your Name" isn't perfect; it's literary to the point of falling out of the screen in a scattering of pages, and paced with such leisure that if the cinematography or direction were the tiniest bit less exquisite the movie would be a snoozefest, livening up only for scenes of intellectual and sexual tension -- the younger man, Elio (Oscar nominee Timothée Chalamet), wresting lovely music into various shapes and colorings to aggravate his father's grad student helper, Oliver (Armie Hammer) or, later on, pawing Oliver in a frenzy that sees all theory vanquished by practical inquiry. But the direction is superb, and so are the actors -- especially Chamalet, who brings great texture and roundness to his character. Elio doesn't confine his sexual investigations to Oliver, or even to a peach (in one of the film's most famed -- and thematically important --scenes). He also sleeps with his girlfriend, Marzia (Esther Garrel); he's figuring out, as best he can with the only means he has available, who he is and what he wants. The year is 1983, and the setting is northern Italy.

Elio is the beneficiary of lucky parentage; his American father (Michael Stuhlbarg) and European mother (Amira Casar) not only are not freaked out that their son is sleeping with their grad student guest, but wholly supportive of Elio's heartbreak at the end of the summer, when Oliver has to leave. Stuhlbarg's speech to Elio near the film's end -- one of the things that's made this movie a sensation, especially for gay Boomers and Gen Xers -- is powerful because of James Ivory's sensitive screenplay (adapted from the novel by André Aciman, and for which Ivory won an Oscar), but also because it's so truthful, so lovingly offered, and so plain-spoken.

This Blu-ray captures the film crisply and vividly, which is a great service to Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, the cinematographer, and his work on 35-mm film. This release offers two of the film's stars on its audio commentary track; the actors murmur amicably to one another about favorite scenes and their recollections of the film's production. No, it's not Hammer and Chalamet, as you might expect, but rather Chalamet and Stuhlbarg; screen "father" and "son" reunited as professional actors reflecting on their characters, and themselves as artists, and conduits for those characters. It's a lovely conversation if a little abstruse at times.

The other extras on this Blu-ray release offer some intriguing tidbits, but nothing with the sheer natural flow of the audio commentary. There's a featurette, "Snapshots of Italy: The Making of Call Me by Your Name," which peeks behind the cameras at the production; there's also a panel discussion between stars Chalamet, Hammer, Stuhlbarg, and director Luca Guadagnino (the former two dressed formally, the latter two much less so), which takes the form of a Q&A. (We see the questions as title cards, and the celebs are then allowed to speak at length on an array of topics.)

There's also a music video - cryptic and stylized - that mixes clips from the movie tougher with images of classical statuary. The track to which these images play out? The film's Oscar-nominated theme song, "Mystery of Love," by Sufjan Stevens.

When all controversies about this film have faded, "Call Me By Your Name" will remain a classic of American LGBTQ cinema. Be ready now: Go get your copy.

"Call Me By Your Name"

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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