I Am Love
I Am Love (2009)
Dir. Luca Guadagnino
I Am Love immediately struck me as a uniquely operatic, but ultimately formulaic foray into Italian melodrama. There are moments of rich beauty and formalism that seemingly almost instantly get trampled by ridiculously over-the-top symbolism and plot twists. Sure, there are moments that are nearly squirm-inducing (a sex scene framed between shots of flowers and insects pollinating them… what, no cannon or rocket launch footage around?), but then there are splendidly realized moments, details elevated to revelations, like a discovery of a perfect meal or a glance between mother and daughter that is filled with profound mutual understanding. For all its nagging faults, here I am, a day later, and I Am Love has yet to leave the senses.
Guadagnino certainly has a way with a camera, as is immediately apparent even in the title card, and uses this tool in a way not unlike Tom Ford’s A Single Man, though to certainly less flashy extremes (not a criticism to either film, truly). Guadagnino’s camera is in constant movement, which certainly recalls Resnais in its stubborn exploring, from a character’s feet walking down the street to a careening view of an immaculate stairwell, and this suits the operatic tension quite well. Which brings us to what I Am Love unabashedly is; an opera about an upper-class family and the struggles from within that occur when business and varied cultures clash together through silences and loaded glances. Yes, I Am Love has been more than aptly compared to the films of Visconti, and it indeed stays true to the Italian cinematic tradition of excess and grand emotions. In essence, Guadagnino’s film feels almost lost in time, as if it might have played better in the early 1960’s, post neorealism, but not quite ready for the dramatic reinvention of the form that Antonioni or Fellini even brought to the table. In fact, when modern landmarks and devices appear in the film, it feels almost shocking, given the very subject matter feels like a potentially archaic one, an upper-crust that has been wiped out by a failing global economy. In many ways, I Am Love will continue to puzzle me, and I’m almost entirely positive this write-up has come too soon. However, what is working for me so well a day later is that the film seems to embrace its view of a familial repression as much more than a simple plot device; it seems to actually follow through and embrace that very repression as a stylistic choice. The big events do indeed distractingly take place, but it’s the mysterious moments between that manage to reveal a deeply embedded tradition of Italian culture.
And then, like the film’s protagonist, there are moments you just want to cheat on that tradition with another film. It just gets kinda stuffy with so much gusto in the air.