Monday, August 2, 2010

I am Love

Luca Guadagnino’s I am Love is an essay on superficiality posing as profundity. The film begins in snow and ends with rain falling on statues. Using these images, Guadagnino introduces the classic elements of the pathetic fallacy, with nature mirroring the emotions of delusion and sorrow. Add to this the stylized title sequences draped in Art Deco fonts. Name your scandalous heroine Emma and cast the role with an actress who has made a reputation in high-art cinema, like the film based on Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. Have her fall in love with a chef. Is it her love of his shrimp that is the turning point of the drama, or is it her lust for him that makes her eventually fall in love with the shrimp? Establish the aristocratic, novelistic Italian drama, which is immediately suggestive of truly great works of cinema like Visconti’s The Leopard, and then add lush lyric sequences (including, naturally, the friezes of auspicious edifices) that conjure the sweep of history in movies like De Sica’s The Garden of the Finzi-Continis and Bertolucci’s The Conformist. Portray doting servants of the kind that appeared in the self-same Italian epics. Create leitmotifs like a cropped hairstyle shared by an adulterous mother and lesbian daughter to establish a relationship predicated on rebellion. And then, as the coup de grace, create the ultimate piece of melodrama in an adventitious and tragic accident that reveals the falsity of a world. In The Leopard, as a case in point, Visconti created a tragic figure defined by the complexity of the historical context in which he found himself—an aristocrat at the time of Garibaldi, facing the economic exigencies of an aggressive new mercantile order. Based on the novel by Lampedusa, The Leopard was a profound meditation on the passing of a way of life. Ironically, there are Tancredis in both movies, but the similarity is in name only.

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