ANDRÉ ACIMAN — LUCA GUADAGNINO — CALL ME BY YOUR NAME — 2017
First of all, beware of the fact that the film uses three languages, English, Italian and French. The French is hard to follow but yet from what I can hear it is some French. The Italian is for me an opera language and the Italian in this film does not have that music, a lot flatter. The English is standard American English and all foreign languages, I mean non-English languages are subtitled in English, still standard American English, what they call mid-Atlantic English.
Second, this film is an adaptation of the eponymous novel but it cuts off all the last part, after the phone call on Hanukah, the phone call being identified as being on Hanukah, which is from a Jew to a Jew a very cruel present, since the phone call tells Elio that the unforgettable affair he had with Oliver is not only finished but it has no hope for no future since Oliver is getting married. The point is not even that they were lovers, even friends should not behave like that. Friendship should have no end, but too often it does. And when the two friends are lovers, gay lovers mind you, that makes things a little bit tricky, but there are some more decent ways. In this case, Oliver is gross and cruel, “crudel” as they say in so many Italian operas.
Third, the cutting off of the last part of the novel gives no future to Elio and we cannot know anything and of course, it makes the story a soap opera more than a real-life adventure. The last part showed that this affair had irreversible consequences for Elio. In the film, we assume it will. But the novel also made Elio meet Oliver again many years later in the USA on Oliver’s campus. And that is a profound ending that demonstrates how impossible it is to forget what happens to you at 17 and for a young adult what happens to you with a 17-year old boy, who should have known better: just the evasive eyes of Oliver when the train is leaving. He had already closed the chapter. Not so easy in the novel (more about it at https://medium.com/@JacquesCoulardeau/call-me-by-no-name-at-all-868045313037). There might be some hope after all.
But fifth, we miss the main conclusion of Elio’s at the end of the novel:
“You are the only person I’d like to say goodbye to when I die because only then will this thing I call my life make any sense. And if I should hear that you died, my life as I know it, the me who is speaking with you now, will cease to exist. Sometimes I have this awful picture of waking up in our house in B. and, looking out to the sea, hearing the news from the waves themselves, He died last night. We missed out on so much. It was a coma. Tomorrow I go back to my coma, and you to yours. Pardon, I didn’t mean to offend — I am sure yours is no coma.”
I said hope, yes but for Elio, because Oliver’s response is ethically and empathetically disquieting:
“No, a parallel life.”
The film then is beautiful all along, though slightly more discreet about the real sex and going on the bike on the following morning but it remains very sentimental and superficial. Such a friendship, especially if love is added, between a younger man and a slightly (or much) older man raises many questions about the effects on both men and what such a friendship or an affair can enable both men to do that they couldn’t have done before, but also what it can block that could have been brought to life. And I am not only speaking of girls and women, marriage or not marriage.
I like the film but I am frustrated and I find it too emotional for a soft-hearted audience.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU