I am Love Luca Guadagnino (2009 It UK) Tilda Swinton; Eduoardo Gabriellini
Viewed Tyneside Cinema Newcastle; 27 April 2010 Ticket price (for matinee) £4.50
Junk food in a glossy package
I am Love (IAL) reminded me of the sort of fashion shoot images you find in glossy women’s life style magazines. The model is photographed in front of a series of backgrounds: domestic, grunge, hi-tech industrial etc. The idea behind the shoot as in all advertising, is to associate the product with some quality represented in or by the setting. The model is in effect a superimposition, and the setting is an affective decontextualised alienated space, a backdrop, without linkage to its key expressive component, the figure in the foreground
IAL takes the form of an installation featuring desirable life style choices. Luca Guadagnino’s (LG) camera tracks and pans continuously as a structural cinematic effect leading the viewer on a guided walk through his movie which features nouvelle cuisine, bourgeois domestic settings and idyllic natural phenomena. These elements are stitched together by a narrative that is that is less acted than mediated by a series of mannerisms and gestures, and which espouses the cause of cliché’d individual freedom as epitomised by sexual relations.
Luca Guadagnino’s movie feels labouriously dated both in its concerns and in its expressive style.
Emma is the wife of Tancredi an Milanese industrialist who rediscovers her Russian origins and her real name Kitiesh in the course of her ‘liberating’ affair with a friend of her son, Antonio who is a chef. Antonio’s occupation is a cue for LG to turn over meters of film in shooting his gloopy gastronomic creations. Why are we presented with so many long filmed sequences depicting food? I think that the reason has to be LG’S endemic insecurity with his material. As LG has nothing to say, everything in IAL, as in an advert, has to be literalised. As if by filling out the movie with streams of images that might or might not have symbolic connotation, he could compensate for lack of meaning in the material. When Emma reads a letter revealing her daughter is a lesbian, she is filmed reading it on the roof of Milan cathedral (she takes quite a number of shots to climb up) ; there is talk about industrial relations, the film cuts to the factory; there is talk of food, and it has to be shown as a close-up gloopy image.
The problem with IAL is that there are no ideas in the movie. It’s just a stream of images that are supposed to represent something more than their presenting banality. It feels like LG has looked at Visconti and Rossellini and imagined that by imitating external aspects of their movies that he could emulate them. GL has failed to see that the externalities of these directors were held together by an inner core of strong concepts employed in the pursuit of purpose.
The impoverishment of idea extends into the structure of the film. ‘Marked off’ fantasy sequences are used to illustrate Emma’s desires. Like a bad ‘60’s movie when LG cuts to Emma’s fantasy, LG goes for out of focus and soft visual effects. When LG wants to film something real and to communicate the feelings aroused he opts for the montage of signs, as when Antonio and Emma (Kitiesh) make love. This sequence is composed of big close up’s of the flesh of the lovers intercut with close up metaphoric suggestive shots from the natural order: flower stamens, insects, thistles, ants etc. Like the shot of the train entering the tunnel this sequence is no more than a parody representing physical love, and announces LG’s cinematic bankruptcy.
When Antonio fucks Emma (Kitiesh) what he wants really is her secret Russian recipe for clear fish soup which Kitiesh was taught by her grandmother. Is that an idea or a narrative device? If Kitiesh hadn’t made love to Antonio she would never have given him her recipe and so her son Eduardo would not have died and she would not have been liberated and gone to sleep in a cave.
The filmic composition through the camera work looks like it is based on the old adman’s adage of: keep the picture moving. In LG’s tracking shots and in the innumerable camera pans, there is little to no purpose in relation to the dynamics of the film. The motive for the camera movement seems to be the director’s fear of allowing stillness to be part of the frame. The audience may get bored. The panning shots in themselves are often slow and devoid of point, to such an extent that many have been aborted in mid movement. in the edit. You can imagine the scene in the editing suite as the editor watches yet another laborious pan meander its way through a setting in order to set up a sequence; the editor politely points out to LG that it might be better to cut out of it and get into the action. adrin neatrour firstname.lastname@example.org