Call Me by Your Name

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Call Me by Your Name

If you have any reservations about seeing Call Me by Your Name, I suggest that you erase them and go right now. How does director Luca Guadagnino get us to forget within minutes any reservations we might have about seeing a film about male homosexuality? He does that by giving us a work of art.

Guadagnino takes us to a 17th century Italian villa where we meet a gentle intellectual family. They have been described perfectly by the director as a family rooted in compassion, trust, and wisdom. Father Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a professor of Greco-Roman culture, mother Annella (Amira Casar) is a translator, and both work at home. Son Elio (Timothee Chalamet) is a thinker who writes music while studying piano and musical history. He is also seventeen years old.

Whenever the father needs help with research he imports a young academic as his assistant. Oliver (Armie Hammer) arrives for that temporary stay. Elio, who has had a lovely friendship with Marzia (an excellent Esther Garrel) while they explored their new interest in sex with trust, is stunned by his strong attraction to the visiting researcher. When Oliver understands what Elio wants, he is careful and protective of the boy’s age and innocence.

As they bicycle and walk and swim, we in the audience are soaking up the beauty of the Italian countryside. No paved roads or cars, just peace. By the time Elio and Oliver indulge themselves, we realize Elio’s parents are extending to their son a quiet understanding of where he is at the moment.

In other hands, this movie might have been fraught with disapproval, tempers, and drama. Mr. Guadagnino has quite literally created magical surroundings and wise, quiet people for an utterly natural coming-of-age story that catches much of what so many feel but don’t say.

Michael Stuhlbarg and Amira Casar – as father and mother – are thoroughly winning as they set the tone of understanding. And a salute is due the designers of the peace of life in the surrounding Italian beauty that sets the tone.

Director Guadagnino avoids all the trappings of a predictably difficult subject and hands us instead quiet time to think of what is actually happening emotionally in all these good people. He never asks us to take sides. His final family scenes are written and acted with such dignity that most of us left the theater lost in quiet thought.

It is Timothee Chalamet who carries the main role so well that we are quietly on his team as he learns. Armie Hammer plays the older male with restraint and kindness until he understands exactly when it is okay to respond to his young partner. The final conversation between the parents we have come to like so much wraps the whole movie in a perspective that would probably have been impossible for other filmmakers. Their movie is on most lists of Top Ten Bests of the Year. The praise is deserved.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Call Me by Your Name
Word Count : 499
Rating : R
Running Time : 2:12
Date : 31 December 2017


This review was posted on December 29, 2017, in Drama, Romance.

Tulip Fever

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

Tulip Fever

An artist and the woman whose portrait he is painting can fall in love at any time in any place. In Tulip Fever it happens in 17th century Amsterdam when the tulip market soared and plunged in a way that feels just like the frenzy of our contemporary stock market. Sadly, the fact that the film opens with promise and ends in failure must be laid at the feet of writers Deborah Moggach, an experienced writer, and Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love).

Sophie (Alicia Vikander) has outgrown her stay at an orphanage run by the abbess (Judi Dench) who finds her a home and marriage to Cornellis Sandvoort (Christoph Waltz) who adores her on sight. Sophie, he knows, will be the fine mother of the son they must produce. So right at the start we have Vikander. Waltz, and Dench, each a deserving winner of an academy award in the recent past. How can anything go wrong with that cast?

Cornellis adores Sophie and commissions Jan (Dane De Haan), a promising young artist, to paint a majestic portrait of the couple. Sophie falls in love with Jan and they begin an affair that takes us through 17th century Amsterdam as they indulge themselves. So far so good. Not one of them is a villain and we can root for all.

We absorb a fun bit of history as abbess Judi Dench explains the tulip fever of the time. It’s a moment when the mania for tulips, especially the rare white one with slight red has become the headquarters of the tulip market with men bidding in a frenzied version of today’s high flyers. We are happily absorbed in the culture of ancient Amsterdam (actually filmed in England). Women are invisible; men are tyrannical.

And then the whole thing falls apart in the writing of Deborah Maggach and Tom Stoppard. In a jolt of convoluted reasoning and utterly ridiculous filming, Sophie and Jan will do the standard thing of running away together; but first they will collude with pregnant housemaid, Maria (Holiday Granger) in a thoughtful effort to hurt Cornellis less. This leads to a delivery of the baby scene that is possibly one of the more ridiculous things ever filmed.

The cast is full of fine actors – add Tom Hollander as Dr. Sorgh, the delivery doctor – and it is a lethal act to all of them to force them to undermine their reputations with the prolonged silliness of two women screaming in pain – one real, one fake – while the happy father stands on the other side of the door. As much as I hate to savage a movie, this is one that begins with promise and ends in absurdity.

The word is out that it took several years along with cast changes and rewrites to make Tulip Fever. What was Tom Stoppard thinking? Given the fine quality of all the actors we can only wish they had quit while they were ahead.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Tulip Fever
Word Count : 501
Running time : 1:47
Rating : R
Date : September 17, 2017


This review was posted on September 17, 2017, in Drama, Romance.