“Call Me by Your Name”

Director Luca Guadagnino has given us a sensual ode to first love. While we all can identify with those feelings of being completely enveloped in another, “Call Me By Your Name” is a gay film. The screenplay by James Ivory is based on a novel by Andre Aciman. Greek statuary and Whitman’s body electric are on full display. Lovely Northern Italian scenes of fountains, orchards, and riversides mesh with stonewalled villas and alfresco dining. The handsome Armi Hammer is Oliver, 24 , brilliant, confident, and charming. An American doctoral student ready for a six-week stint helping an archeology professor ( Michael Stuhlbarg ) and father to seventeen year-old, Elio. ( Timothee Chalamet)  We know what the circumstances will ignite, but it will be a slow, romantic smolder. This is a film with no gender boundaries in love.

Timothee Chalamet is amazing as the young virtuoso pianist, who is both embarrassed and controlled by his gonads. This is a coming-of-age film and a celebration of the joy two people can feel when they appreciate and understand each other. At the same time, when Elio puts Oliver’s bathing trunks over his head and breathes deeply, we laugh at his impetuosity. Chalamet was also the love interest in the film “Lady Bird” . His easy change from  sophisticate  to innocent is fun to compare.

The themes of  pain and joy in total intimacy and their  obsession reminds me of Scott Spencer’s  novel “ Endless Love”. It may not be healthy, but it is romantic. Scenes where Elio places his matching Star of David necklace on his own body are as sweet as the juicy peach scene. The staring into the fire ending will melt your heart.

Armi Hammer is an Adonis who can not dance, but glows in Elio’s rapture. As Oliver, his  flirtatiousness and self-restraint are attractive end marks in his personality. We smile at his easy American nonchalance, even his chambray shirt. We know he cares deeply. All this is entwined with academic discussions on Brunel’s cinema, 17th c. German romance readings, and glorious pond swims in freezing alpine drifts.

Elio’s father’ s reaching-out speech elevates Elio’s suffering  and experience, though it made me a tad sad for Mr. and Mrs. Perlman’s marriage. Somehow, after viewing this film, the title made consummate sense. “Call Me By Your Name” or taking on your lover’s name personifies oneness here. It is a lovely film about human connection. Life tells me there will be a sequel, and that some many re-visit “ The Cosmic Fragments of Heraclitus” and the art and thought of other pre-Socratic philosophers.

 

“Trumbo”

Talented writers, liberal politics, power equalized and a family that adjusts to circumstances and stays united…what is not to like! Certainly,it is not Bryan Cranston or Diane Lane whose chemistry and depth of character have us wishing to know more about James Dalton Trumbo and Cleo,his loving and insightful and wise wife. Maybe the script is a tad too forgiving of gossip nickenpoop Hedda Hopper and spineless Edgar G. Robinson.  Hopper seems to want to hurt people just because she can,and Helen Mirren as Hedda does a grand job all be-hatted and cruel. Edgar G. too easily can rationalize his efforts to avoid hard sacrifice and move any way the wind blows.

The era is the fifties,again, with lots of analogies to today. McCarthyism is in full swing. Many Americans feel that “our way of life” is being  threatened by communism. Fear of loss and easy patriotism are taking hold. Hollywood,like America, is divided. Actual footage from the 1952 Congressional testimonies of The House of UnAmerican Activities Committee shows “The Duke” (that is John Wayne) , Robert Taylor and Ronald Reagan on the conservative wing and Kirk Douglas, Lucille Ball and Gregory Peck on the liberal .

Trumbo is called a ” swimming pool socialist” .  He is maligned as a man who talks like a radical and lives like a rich man. Yet, we see the star of “Breaking Bad” serving a jail  term for contempt of court as he states that criminalizing thought has never been the Ametican way. As a registered Communist, Trumbo says that someone will have to “surgically remove his conscience” to play by these House committee’s rules.

On screen, Director Jay Roach balances Trumbo’s personal and professional life beautifully. One of my favorite scenes has his young daughter, here played by Madison Wolfe, being led  on her pony by her father. She has seen a stranger throw a Coke in her Daddy’s face and call him “Traitor”. She sweetly asks if she is a Communist,too. Cranston seems to delight in asking what she would do if a child at school had forgotten lunch and she had a ham and cheese sandwich. Would she charge money, heap on interest, lecture him on being  more responsible etc..?  When Niki says that she would share, Trumbo calls het ” You little Commie”. It is a delightful, idealistic moment. Likewise, before he is taken to prison in Ashland, Kentucky, he gives his son Chris a job: “Your mother needs to laugh at least once a day”. We see Chris succeeding in a few attempts! The humor of Trumbo softens the depressing aspects of what was done to these families. When he returns to their California home,which must now be sold,he looks at his maturing children and screams,”I’m being attacked by giants!” The audience wishes to embrace him,too.

Diane Lane is no less fun to watch her at her craft. She juggles,parents,loves, sacrifices and fights at her family’s side. I have loved her work since she was a child herself. Michael Stulhbarg,who was great in “Steve Jobs” is just as memorable as Edward G. Robinson. He knows that banks don’t fund “enemies of the state” and he is not willing to sell another Matisse to live. It is hard to identify with his pain as a “snitch”. Trumbo’s asides are always humorous. “He is trying to sell his soul,but he can’t find it”. When John Wayne (played with perfect -speech -patterned voice by David James Elliott ) testifies  before the Congressional committee, Trumbo’s friend bemoans that “The Duke” is good. Trumbo retort is “Yeah, he is not acting!” The banter keeps their spirits up. McCarthyites are ” Nazis- too cheap to buy the uniforms”. Joe McCarthy is seen saying that “one Communist on the faculty is one Communist too many”.

Blacklisted writers unite under Trumbo’s lead. The Hollywood Ten, those given prison terms, make a living on their release by writing B- scripts for Frank King ( John Goodman)~scripts with titles like “The Alien and the Farmgirl”. The irony is  Trumbo ‘s win of two Oscars for screenplays under  the bogus author name of Robert Rich. “Roman Holiday” (1953) and “The Brave One” (1956) were the award winners, but “Spartacus” and “Exodus” were Trumbo’s ,too.

Enjoy the trivia history of President JFK crossing the picket line to see “Spartacus” and in effect signifying that “blacklisting” was over.  Enjoy the brilliant Otto Preminger rankling with Trumbo. And finally, see one of the best frames of the year when film credits are reflected in the eyeglass lens of a tearful artist, who is so well lauded in the making of this film. Finally, enjoy the Jazz lyrics of “ain’t nobodies business if I do”.