Tuesday, January 2, 2018


CALL ME BY YOUR NAME is receiving a lot of praise, and rightfully so. It's a sweet, small, quietly revelatory film. Some are criticizing it for being unrealistic in its portrayal of a sexual and romantic connection between two males in 1981, or for using two "straight" actors to play those roles, or for not actually showing their sex acts more explicitly. But I haven't read any criticism, though I suspect it's out there, that one of the two males is seventeen and the other older.

It's not a revolutionary film, and the story it tells is not unique or original. But it's still rare for a love story, or even a love-affair story, to be told with the leads being of the same gender, even if it is a bittersweet but poignant tale. I could quibble with the story details, but the script was written by James Ivory (adapted from a novel by Andre Aciman), who knows how to use brilliantly concise dialogue to tell a story.

The actors are all terrific, Armie Hammer fulfilling the role of an American hunk interloper with a restrained charisma, and Timothee Chalamet playing the smitten young man (though I guess in the terms currently used in our US culture since he is supposed to be seventeen, boy would be the term, or even according to some, "child") with charm and what seemed to me the realistic amount of human confusion.

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME is a throwback to numerous French romantic movies of the 1960s and '70s and '80s, only with the lovers being male instead of the usual heterosexuals. A "coming of age" (or at least of sexual initiation) movie the French have almost always done better than any other culture. The best descriptive term, especially in these times, for the whole ambience of the movie is "civilized"—in the best sense of that term.

And for me, the presence of Amira Casar was the icing on the cake, and as her character's husband, the currently ubiquitous Michael Stuhlbarg doing his usual great job elevating another stereotype (the repressed but oh so civilized art lover/professor) to more than meets the eye. The whole endeavor seemed like a refreshing respite from our current affairs, in all senses of that term.

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