I Am Love (2010) Dir. Luca Guadagnino
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Gabriele Ferzetti, Marisa Berenson
By Alan Bacchus
In the special features interviews of the newly released DVD director Luca Guadagnino and her actress/muse/co-producer make numerous references to Luciano Visconti (The Leopard) when discussing the inspiration for this film. It’s an appropriate reference to Visconti’s elegant bourgeois style of filmmaking in the 60’s, a tone Mr. Guadagnino has tried to capture with this film. It’s not his first feature, but his sublime sense of cinematic enthusiasm or passione brings the same feeling of excitement we felt from the first films of Godard, Tarantino, Welles, etc.
The Visconti comparisons are worthy, but a more accurate comparison would be to Tom Ford’s chiselled visual elegance in A Single Man, or even Bernardo Bertolucci’s razzle dazzle in The Conformist. Like both of these pictures I Am Love is classiness personified, showing an unabashed love for the good things in life, good clothes, good food, and nice cars. But like any good storyteller he puts his characters through the emotional ringer, spitting out his hero, Emma, on the other side a changed woman, a new zest for life.
The opening puts us in the preparations for a dinner party gathering in a gorgeous Italian estate to celebrate the birthday of Edoardo Recchi Sr, patrirach to a wealthy aristoctratic Italian family. Guadagnino’s hero, Emma Recchi (Tilda Swinton), daughter-in-law to Papa Recchi seems to be the head of the household making all the arrangements and coordinating everyone’s movements. A bold pronounciation by Edoardo announces his retirement and renounciation of control of the family textile business to his son (Emma’s husband) and his grandson.
As the ripple effect makes its way through the family Emma, who, by her gender and by her poor immigrant background, seems lost and forgotten in the mix, discovers love with her son’s new friend Antonio, a chef whose charm, good looks and culinary skills are an irresistable aphrodesiac. But Emma doesn’t act on her impulse immediately.
Guadagnino, admirably holds back as long as possible before putting them in the same bed together - actually I think it was a table, or a sideboard where they consummated. Either way, the moment occurs in the third act releasing a flood of overflowing silent tension which Guadagnino has built up inside Emma. It’s a great award-worthy performance from Swinton, playing an Italian immigrant, who has to speak both Russian and Italian but not English. Her character is deep and has a lifetime of angst and turmoil which reveals itself carefully. Even after Emma beds Antonio Guadagnino stays on the far side of melodrama while providing us a riproaring energetic and wholly satisfying finale, a sequence so perfectly crafted, it sends the film out with such a bang it had me on my couch at home smiling and nodding in admiration.
Deservedly, Luca Guadagnino was placed on the Variety’s annual list of top ‘10 Directors to Watch’ this year, beside, namely, Tom Ford (A Single Man), David Michod (Animal Kingdom), Sam Taylor-Wood (Nowhere Boy) and Rodrigo Cortes (Buried).