I AM LOVE (Dir. Luca Guadagnino, 2009)
There sure is a lot of opulent dinner party preparation in this Italian drama. We see servants prepare food, line up plates, arrange seating, etc. under the supervision of Tilda Swinton as a Russian woman who married into the wealthy Recchi family, yet appears to be far from satisfied.
Swinton’s husband, Pippo Delbono, is distant and only business minded in the face of his father’s (Gabriele Ferzetti) declaration that he is passing his textile manufacturing enterprise to not only his son, but also his grandson (Flavio Parenti). This announcement is made, of course, at one of many formal dinner parties that dominate the first half of the film.
A chef friend (Edoardo Gabbriellini) to Parenti enters the picture and sweeps Swinton off her feet with a sumptuous dish of prawns. This scene tries to be sublime, but it borders on the ridiculous – a shaft of light falls upon Swinton as she begins to eat, the music swells, and there are extreme close-ups of her face as the taste sensation overwhelms her. On a trip to Sanremo to visit her art student daughter (Alba Rohrwacher), who her mother knows is a lesbian, but is keeping her secret, Swinton runs into Gabbriellini and they begin an affair.
Their budding romance has tragic consequences when it’s revealed at, yep, another fancy dinner gathering. After flirting with the mainstream and winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (for “Michael Clayton” in 2008) it’s nice to see that Swinton can come back to her art house home turf, but despite her character craft this is a overbearing self consciously artsy film with little soul.
There is a sex scene that about sums it all up – Swinton and Gabbriellini make love in the woods, her pale skin (also surprising to see she will still do nude scenes – most of the time Oscars bring an end to that) intertwining with his as the camera cuts constantly away to the nature surrounding them.
Shots of insects and flowers are interspliced between shots of their carnal desires. It’s all a pretentious show-off that has no ambitions beyond empty imagery. I AM LOVE is sure to delight many lovers of Foreign and indie films for the same reasons it didn’t appeal to this reviewer.
Its aesthetics alone will be enough to satisfy some movie goers, but the lack of pure emotional impact will definitely disturb others. Director Guadagnino made a film that desperately wants us to feel for these people, take in their lush environs, and luxuriate in their passions.
Yet after 2 hours of all the luscious shots of well prepared delicacies that these people live off of, it was difficult to relate or empathize - the only real thing I felt was hunger.