Call Me by Your Name

Call Me by Your Name ★½

An affair to dismember

When Truffaut made Jules and Jim, his sprawling romantic classic about three Bohemian artists slipping in and out of love, he made a pivotal stylistic choice that can be read in the Criterion release of the film. The gist of it (and I'm paraphrasing here) is that because the characters were privileged, it was important to keep them busy - writing, taking photographs, moving about energetically, going to the theater - otherwise their sluggishness would soon grate on an audience.

To like any of the characters in Call Me By Your Name is only possible through the bourgeois belief that immense wealth goes hand-in-hand with good breeding. Otherwise you must simply let your libido make the judgement call. These are the same basic principles that have given Kim and Kanye their legion of devotees. Intellectually, there is no way to care about any of these people without being self-diminishing.

Timothée Chalamet is a fine young actor who is half naked ALL the time and, at 22 years of age, he still has the body of an adolescent. The camera's leering insistence upon his unfilled-out shape is tasteless at best and, at worst, pedophilic. The screenplay by James Ivory is self-conscious, often spilling over into silliness. Every beat is blunt-force-trauma. There is no ambiguity, no messiness. It's all as artificially constructed as the mother's belaboured drags on her cigarette.

What's troubling is that even the people who love this movie can't explain why. They call it a love story. It isn't, even by its own admission. It is a coming-of-age film about one boy's sexual awakening. This is not a great love affair but a young man's first dalliance; a schoolboy crush, from which he will, given the nature of youth, quickly recover. Perhaps its target audience is walking out of the cinema having caught a little of the characters' heatstroke.

A scene involving a peach is a spiritless attempt at provocation. The implications of the scene might have been interesting but Ivory, the writer, lacks the requisite insight for further investigation and quickly forgets about it. It's the 'report' without the 'findings'. The gays take bicycle rides in loose collared shirts, suck down peaches and sit around in their room providing an antiquated homophobic illustration of what it means to be glossy-gay. It's terribly dull and faintly insulting, but it's also slow-paced, the Italian country side panoramas are beautiful, the performances are mature and it's been released at the right time of year. So we hold it up to the Gods and call it art, even though it reeks like a locker room.

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