This new movie received already a lot of positive publicity if not to say hype, and rightly so, it seems. But I went to see it and was disappointed by it, for several reasons.
The Times of Israel already spent two large articles about it:
‘Call Me by Your Name’ is an honest, character-driven coming of age story that rings authentic with its sideways glance at identity politics
Coming-of-age drama, touted as one of the best Jewish movies in years, is based on a novel by an Egyptian-born Jew
After the first article, I knew already what to expect a bit and went to see it with mixed feelings to begin with. Why?
1. First of all, we know: opposites attract. It’s one of the basics in partnership. But that’s especially true for heterosexual couples. Homosexual means: attracted to the same. While there are many gay couples who consist of one or more contrasts (tall/short, heavy/thin, dark/light, old/young, extrovert/introvert, etc), very typically, many others are more two peas in a pod. They wear each other’s clothes, they have the same hairdresser, they have the same voice and expressions: identical twins.
Well, here we have the “heterosexual” gay couple: one is mature, hyper-muscled and self-assured/arrogant, the other an emotional and physical twink. One is blond, the other dark. One is tall, the other short. One is “the male” and the other “the female” – or so it seems.
And that is then supposedly offset by the younger one taking the initiative to be sexual. (His rude action is out of character and the other shows no character either when assaulted.) That makes the other then not the predator – wasn’t he invited? The best (but failing) excuse by any pedophile.
But no, the age of consent in Italy is 14, and this guy looks more like 15 or 16, so technically this is OK. Still, some of my friends saw the whole movie as an older guy taking advantage of a ten year younger guy.
And we still have the selling of gayness as identical to straightness.
2. Bad ending. There was a time when finally there were gay-themed movies coming from Hollywood but they always ended in drama. One of the two would die, preferably a horrible death, or they got separated in another way. In any case, no: And they lived happily ever after. That seemed true here too.
And it was. They started their sexual relationship despite that they were supposed to separate soon after and neither changed his plans, leaving at least the younger emotionally destroyed.
To make things worse, his father claims that he’s lucky for having found and dared true love (a bit heavy for a romance that lasted a few days), which he never dared, and his mother pretends that is all well calling the separated boy her son-in-law.
What’s so wrong with a happy ending for gay movies? This one ends literally in tears. Was the goal to promote heterosexuality; or glorify homosexual victimhood? Don’t we have enough sadness in life already?
So I saw this all coming from the first article I read. But seeing the movie didn’t make it better.
3. Vanity. The whole movie depicts a family living a life of pleasure and comfort. Nothing ever happens except being busy with art, leisure and eating. (Art can be work too but here it’s carefully presented as a higher calling.)
What’s wrong with having two guys fall in love, negotiate a life together and take care of each other?! Unfortunately, in this movie servants and maids do almost all the taking care of.
But the worst is that in the movie hardly anything happens. Maybe that is supposed to be a brilliant depiction of the boredom of rolling in wealth. And every time something actually happens, it’s a shock disturbing the stilled canvas. The playing of a song, the showing of his favorite place to his new friend, a lighthearted joke here or there, tears about the separation. When finally something happens, it’s shown so briefly and superficially that one wonders what’s the hurry.
In the end, I only asked myself if the author came from a life of self-importance himself or was utterly poor idolizing a life in the lap of luxury. The second article gives some clues.
4. The movie turns out to conflate love, in love and lust. It doesn’t take any responsibility for that as if this is the only way one could think about these things. Rather, it elevates lust to love and degrades love to lust.
5. Buttons. Yes, the movie pushes all the right buttons to get talked about: Jews, homosexuality, vulnerability of adolescence, and affluence.
But I consider watching it a waste of time, much ado about nothing.
In all fairness I need to share that the version that I watched in the Jerusalem Film Festival had no English translation for the Italian dialogues and the Hebrew was simply too quick for me to follow so that I missed a few jokes (judging from laughter from others).
Also, I just came out of a 150-minute presentation of a terrific documentary in which every minutes was crammed with interesting details, keeping me fascinated from beginning to end, although I had seen it already at home! That’s a hard act to follow.