Film Reviews


By • Jul 11th, 2010 •

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Luca Guadagnino’s I AM LOVE is a showcase for Tilda Swinton. (Swinton is Guadagnino’s muse and he rewards her dedication to him with a role tailored to her physicality and angular strength. Swinton is not a delicate-featured actress – she is a perfect, ball-busting foil for George Clooney in MICHAEL CLAYTON and BURN AFTER READING).

It starts off with a languorous pace that might torture the more action-prone amongst us. But, it stars Swinton (with long hair). That is all I needed to buy a ticket.

The film presents Milan’s Recchi family – wealth so secure that their large staff is an integral, important part of the family.

The family patriarch considers his family the Medici of the textile business. At his last birthday celebration he passes the empire to his son Tancredi (Pippo Delbono) and grandson Edoardo (Flavio Parenti). Tancredi has a perfectly integrated Russian wife, Emma (Swinton). He has created in Emma the prototypical Milan hostess who masterfully runs the household, arranges important parties, and adores her children. Their interior life is nil.

Emma has a very close relationship with Tancredi’s mother, Allegra (Marisa Berenson) and her beautiful children, Edoardo, Elisabette (Alba Rohrwacher) and Gianluca (Mattia Zaccaro).

While Edoardo is co-managing the family’s firm, he is also very, very fond of a peasant chef, Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini). Antonio is humble and short on words. Edoardo and Antonio plan on opening a restaurant a two hour drive from Milan in the magical countryside. Edoardo is marrying well with his parents and grandmother’s approval, but he is very huggy-feely with Antonio. Just saying…

Emma has acquired the cold grace of a socialite with no charity balls or patron-of-the-arts portfolio. She does become orgasmic at a luncheon prepared by Antonio. It is foreplay for the rich and bored.

Guadagnino, who wrote and directed I AM LOVE, has several foot fetish scenes. He also writes a scene allowing Swinton to return to her favored short hair as an essential key element of the drama!

I know from the tabloids that women married to obscenely wealthy men always seem to have affairs with the kid’s baseball coach, the construction worker, or the landscaper, but I never understand why. Are all the men in their social orbit taken by 20 year old starlets with agendas?

Emma and wordless Antonio fall madly and passionately in love. Maybe Emma is getting even with Tancredi for his passionless indifference to her. Maybe she finally realizes she’s bored.

As the film crawls along, the sudden denouement of the staid pace turns electric. It is a stunning turn that is never foreshadowed or expected. It changes the clogged drain drama into an emotional thrill. And I loved the ending. Of course, it is the ending only rich people without concern for the realities of real life would do.

Emma could easily leave her husband. But the invested housekeeper?

Swinton, an actress devoted to representing truth, shows us the face of despair without the slightest regard for her own cinematic presentation. She looks like a real person in pain.

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