Call me by your name

And what I’m trying to say isn’t really new
It’s just the things that happen to me
When I’m reminded of you

Is it okay if I call you mine? from the film Fame (1980), music and lyrics by Paul McCrane

Plaisir d’amour ne dure qu’un moment,
Chagrin d’amour dure toute la vie.

Plaisir d’amour (1784), music by Jean-Paul-Égide Martini, lyrics by Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian

Awards season is near and one of the films that has been on everyone’s lips is Luca Guadagnino’s Call me by your name. Some people are hoping that Call me by your name is this year’s Moonlight (the film that was eventually named Best picture at the last Oscar cast following a screw up with the envelopes). Moonlight was the first LGBTQ themed film to ever win Best picture, and there’s talk of a repeat in 2017. But will it win? In Call me by your name, Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet), a 17-year-old Italian-American, lives in the Italian countryside with his parents. We are in the summer of 1983 and Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg), a professor of archaeology, has hired an American student to help him. Oliver (Armie Hammer), a handsome a 24-year-old man with golden hair, comes to stay with them at their beautiful villa in Lombardy. Oliver will sleep in Elio’s room. Although Elio spends some time with his girlfriend Marzia (Esther Garrel) and Oliver is seeing a local girl, it soon becomes clear that the young men are attracted to each other. It’s done in small details. When Oliver suddenly touches Elio’s shoulder during a ball game, the teenager’s reaction is to quickly withdraw. But when they are alone, it is Elio’s turn to touch, kiss and grab, and Oliver to hold back. They are both conscious and wary of their feelings. Oliver is ambiguous. He enjoys the game of seduction and the attention, but is also aware of the danger. But what should happen, happens. Call me by your name is actually not as explicit as screenwriter James Ivory originally conceived it. A lot of nudity (read full frontal) was removed at the request of the actors. And then there is a scene of Elio in bed with a peach (yeah, a peach!). There was Marlon Brando and butter in Last tango in Paris, now there is Timothée Chalamet and a peach in Call me by your name. Guadagnino is such an original filmmaker. In Call me by your name he is more concerned with the small gestures, the furtive glances and the tearful face than the long dialogue scenes that will spell everything out for the moviegoers. The way the part is written, it would be almost impossible to play Elio. There are too many things for a young actor to do, too many emotions at once. But Chalamet hits every nails with brilliance make it seems easy, no sweat, and at the end the audience feels emotionally drained. Armie Hammer is Chalamet’s perfect partner, accompanying him, and us in this intense love story. Hammer, like Chalamet, gives a most multi-layered performance. And as Elio’s dad Michael Stuhlbarg delivers a heartfelt speech to help his son cope with his sorrow. The beauty of the Italian landscapes is casually photographed by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom as we go along for a bike ride or for a swim in a river. He knows that however beautiful it is, there is nothing more beautiful than two young lovers.

And the Oscar went to… The safest bet for Call me by your name was James Ivory for his adapted screenplay. It was the film’s only Oscar. At 89, Ivory became the oldest-ever Oscar winner. One of many LGBTQ winners that evening, Ivory recalled his late partner Ismail Merchant (d. 2005).

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Call me by your name

 

Directed by:
Luca Guadagnino

Screenplay by:
James Ivory
Based on the novel by André Aciman

Starring:
Timothée Chalamet
Armie Hammer
Michael Stuhlbarg
Amira Casar

132 min.

Rated 14A

In English, French and Italian with English subtitles.

Advertisements

The divine order (Die göttliche ordnung)

It is stunning what you learn watching movies. For instance, in The divine order, the new film from Switzerland, you are told that women did not have the right to vote until 1971. This historical event is seen through the fictional story of Nora (Marie Leuenberger), a woman living in a small village with her husband Hans (Max Simonischek), her two boys and her taciturn father-in-law. Nora cleans and cooks for all of them without getting any help. When she tells Hans that she would like to get a job, he refuses, claiming that the law says it is his right. And it was. Everywhere in the village Nora sees that women are taken for granted and are treated unfairly by unjust laws. Soon she gets involved with the local suffragette movement working towards the upcoming referendum that could grant women the right to vote. Coming along with her is Vroni (Sibylle Brunner), a feisty elderly woman, and Nora’ sister-in-law Theresa (Rachel Braunschweig). Together they march in a protest and, in the funniest scene in the film, attend a hippie yoga session in which they are told to “love your vagina”. With the help of a mirror, each women have to look at their vagina and name what animal it looks like (“butterfly”, “bunny” or “tiger”). They come away from the experience with greater sexual awareness. That’s where Nora discover that she never had an orgasm. After being ridiculed by the men of the village and by Frau Dr. Charlotte Wipf (Therese Affolter), leader of the social club, the women leave their family and go on strike. I see no reason not to recommend this film. It is well conceived and directed by Petra Volpe. The three main actresses (Leuenberger, Brunner and Braunschweig) are excellent, as is the whole cast. And the topic is so interesting. It’s a story that has never been told.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

The divine order (Die göttliche ordnung)

 

Directed by:
Petra Volpe

Screenplay by:
Petra Volpe

Starring:
Marie Leuenberger
Rachel Braunschweig
Marta Zoffoli
Sibylle Brunner
Ella Rumpf
Bettina Stucky
Max Simonischek
Therese Affolter

96 min.

Rated 14A

In Swiss German and Italian with English subtitles.

Wonder wheel

Wonder wheel, the new Woody Allen film is not a comedy but a melodrama. “I relish melodrama and larger-than-life characters,” says Mickey (Justin Timberlake) speaking to the camera. Mickey is a Coney Island lifeguard and wannabe playwright, and this type of naration is often used in theatre. This is the 1950s, and the film centres on Ginny (Kate Winslet), a clam-bar waitress and wannabe actress. She lives with her husband Humpty (Jim Belushi), a carousel operator, and her young son Richie (Jack Gore), an incorrigible pyromaniac. Their apartment next to the boardwalk is surrounded by the noise of the amusement park and the shooting games. The film starts as Humpty’s estranged daughter Caroline (Juno Temple) comes to seek refuge from her mobster husband. Initially Humpty refuses to get involved because he’s afraid the mobster will be looking for her. But her allows her to stay with them. Meanwhile, Ginny has an affair with Mickey the lifeguard, who is a few years younger than she is. That gives Ginny a little break from the gloom of life at the apartment where Ginny and Humpty are always fighting and Richie gets in trouble again with another fire he has started. With Mickey, Ginny can dream to be an actress again, and Ginny is happy. That is untill Mickey meets Caroline and he falls for her. Although this is an original screenplay by Woody Allen, it feels like a play, either adapted from another source or from an unproduced Woody Allen play. A big chunk of the action is stagey and takes place inside the apartment. But even when it does not, the screenplay has a series of speeches and monologues that seems like it was written for the stage. It may have been deliberate. Look at it this way: Ginny played on stage when she was younger, and Mickey, who wants to be a playwright, reads Shakespeare, quotes Eugene O’Neill (Wonder wheel might have been an O’Neill play, or a Tennessee Williams, or an Edward Albee). The characters in Wonder wheel are angry people, clinging on to their unattainable dreams. They are surrounded by a deafening dysfunctional noise. Wonder wheel is well directed by Allen with an acute sense of doom. But there is a lack of focus in the writing. There is enough drama and material for several films. Winslet is unforgettably tense in portraying Ginny’s increasingly hysterical neuroses. And legendary cinematographer Vittorio Storaro’s brilliant use of colors is one of the great joy of this Woody Allen film.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Wonder wheel

Directed by:
Woody Allen

Screenplay by:
Woody Allen

Starring:
Kate Winslet
Justin Timberlake
Juno Temple
Jim Belushi

101 min.

Rated 14A

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr story

On the surface Hedy Lamarr’s career as an actress is not very impressive. The Austrian-born film actress is mostly known for her nudity and a close-up of Lamarr (then Hedy Kiesler) feigning orgasm in the scandalous 1933 erotic film Ecstasy. Lamarr arrived in Hollywood in 1938 after MGM’s Louis B. Mayer signed her up. The publicity claimed she was “the world’s most beautiful woman”. And they might have been right. Her first Hollywood film was Algiers opposite Charles Boyer. Followed a series of increasingly forgettable films. So why a documentary about Hedy Lamarr? One thing that is not generally known is that Lamarr was also an amateur inventor. In 1942, Lamarr and her friend composer George Antheil designed a device that could help the war effort. Lamarr knew that radio-controlled torpedoes could easily be jammed, and the torpedoes diverted. With their “frequency hopping” device, Lamarr and Antheil could change the radio frequencies and help the torpedoes hit their targets. At the time the Frequency-hopping spread spectrum was rejected by the US Navy, but in 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis, updated versions of their design appeared on Navy ships. It’s amazing to learn that Lamarr and Antheil’s work led to the development of GPS, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. Lamarr made her last film in 1958, was arrested for shoplifting twice, she became addicted to pills and destroyed her beauty with too many plastic surgery. After 6 marriages, she retired to Miami Beach, Florida in 1981 and became a recluse. Today, there are the films of course and her work as an inventor has been posthumously recognized.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr story

 

Directed by:
Alexandra Dean

Screenplay by:
Alexandra Dean

90 min.

Rated Parental Guidance

The breadwinner

The breadwinner is an animated film about Parvana, an eleven-year-old girl living with her family in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. After her father is arrested, Parvana’s mother is having trouble feeding her children. Women are banned from going out in public without a man and at home there is only Parvana, her older sister and a little brother. So Parvana cuts off her hair and pretends she is a boy. She is then able to earn some money and buy food. One day she meets Shauzia, a girl who also dresses as a boy. Shauzia and Parvana become friends and help each other. At home, Parvana helps her family cope by telling them the story of a young boy named Sulayman who must confront his fears and fight a giant elephant. There are then two types of anination. The more realistic drawings for Parvana’s adventures, and the animation for the Sulayman fantasy tale. It looks like a paper collage, is more colourful, and can be very funny at times. Based on the popular children’s novel by Deborah Ellis, The breadwinner is really for adults and older children. It is beautifully made with a lot of careful details and respect. One more plus: the main character is a fearless girl. It has great artistic integrity and it is charming.

And the Oscar went to… The winner for Animated feature film was the more mainstream blockbuster Coco.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

The breadwinner

 

Directed by:
Nora Twomey

Screenplay by:
Anita Doran
Deborah Ellis
adapted from The breadwinner by Deborah Ellis

94 min.

Rated Parental Guidance

The other side of hope (Toivon tuolla puolen)

As he was accepting the 2017 Berlinale Silver Bear for Best Director for The other side of hope, Aki Kaurismäki announced that it would be his last film as a director. The internationally acclaimed director’s type of absurdist tragicomedies are so rare that we are taken aback by the unusual tone of his films. The other side of hope is tell parallel story of two men: Khaled Ali (Sherwan Haji), a Syrian refugee in his thirties who has travelled to Helsinki, Filnland, and Waldemar Wikström (Sakari Kuomanen), a middle-aged traveling shirt salesman. After reporting to authorities, Khaled has to run away when he learns that he will be deported back to Syria. Meanwhile, Waldemar leaves his alcoholic wife, quits his salesman job, sells the shirts, wins a lot of money playing poker and buys a restaurant with the money. When Khaled and Waldemar meet, Waldemar helps him by giving him shelter and a job at the restaurant. Since business is slow, Waldemar tries to save it by serving sushi, but it does not seem that neither he nor the staff know anything about sushi. The scenes dealing with Khaled are mostly serious – being threatened by a gang of racist thugs and receiving the news of deportation – and the Waldemar segments are funnier. But the film is never LOL. Certainly not for everyone. Still, it is good because it often surprises us, and the main actors are fun to watch. Your choice.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

The other side of hope (Toivon tuolla puolen)

 

Directed by:
Aki Kaurismäki

Screenplay by:
Aki Kaurismäki

Starring:
Sherwan Haji
Sakari Kuomanen
Kati Outinen
Tommi Korpela
Ville Virtanen

100 min.

Rated Parental Guidance.

In Finnish, English, Arabic and Swedish with English subtitles.

Human flow

To make Human flow, his powerful documentary about refugees, Ai Weiwei has travelled to 23 countries around the world in order and put a human face on the biggest mass exodus since World War II. More than 65 million people worldwide. It’s not just Syrians fleeing from the horrors of ISIS that we see here. It’s also African refugees dangerously migrating by boat to Italy, as we saw in the Oscar nominated documentary Fire at sea, or the Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar that have to escape persecution, death, rape and torture. War, ethnic cleansing, human right abuses, famine, climate change, there are many reasons. I knew about film director, contemporary artist and political activist Ai Weiwei from the 2012 documentary Ai Weiwei: Never sorry. In that film we saw Weiwei put in jail in his native China because he dared, through his art, question the government’s actions. With Human flow we see how relentless he can be as a documentarian and an activist. Ai Weiwei seems to be everywhere. In France when they burned the refugee camps, when some countries have closed their borders, blocking access to Germany, and refugees are forced to stay in front of locked gates for days, weeks, months… And the many refugee camps with the kids playing. We often can see Weiwei, sometimes behind the camera, other times among the refugees. He’s filming with his cell phone, playing with children or having a hair cut. There were more than a dozen camera man/cinematographer that worked on that film. From the impressive overhead shots of camps to the stunning landscapes (and the most beautiful, greenest sea I’ve ever seen), and, of course, some shocking images showing the horrible living conditions of some refugees. The picture is complete. Human flow is a documentary of epic scale.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Human flow

 

Directed by:
Ai Weiwei

Screenplay by:
Chin-Chin Yap
Tim Finch
Boris Chershirkov

140 min.

Rated Parental Guidance

In English, Arabic, Farsi, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Kurdish, Rohingya, Spanish, Turkish with English subtitles.