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‘Call Me By Your Name’ works better if you read the book AFTER the movie

Charmaine Blake

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It’s officially Hollywood awards season, which means anxious moviegoers around the world can finally watch and compare the movies we’ve been hearing about for ages. 

Perhaps the most elusive is Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name. The film is currently only playing in New York and Los Angeles and awaiting a wider release, which means that you have time to read the book while you wait for it in another city or part of the world. 

But contrary to all instinct, you may want to wait before reading. Call Me By Your Name is deeply fulfilling on both page and screen, but Call Me By Your Name may just be the rare case where you should watch the movie first before reading the book. 

I read Call Me By Your Name in December, before seeing the film that had just arrived in New York. The novel is unapologetically gripping within the first few pages as André Aciman superbly describes Elio’s attraction – his love, his obsession, his unfettered desire – to Oliver. Aciman’s  words are chosen with almost chemical precision to create a vivid and exact portrait of how young love consumes. The story soars, in large part, because of Elio’s hyper honest narration, which gives the reader an intimate and unparalleled account of one person’s journey through love.

Watching Call Me By Your Name on film lets the actor and audience interpret the meaning of every look and gesture.

However, the movie of Call Me By Your Name does away with Elio’s narration, so viewers don’t get those marvelous words. Instead, you get Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer acting the heck out of Elio and Oliver’s desires and impulses, without any words of narration to aid them in conveying their attraction. 

Watching Call Me By Your Name on film before reading the book lets the audience interpret the meaning of every look and gesture of Elio and Oliver, before learning of every detail of every single thread of thought that led Elio to a single moment as Aciman depicts in the book. 

Art is inherently subjective, much as we criticize it. Having the opportunity to freely interpret a relationship as complex as Elio and Oliver’s as an outside, third-person viewer, rather than through the novel’s first-person narration, only adds to the depth of Call Me By Your Name.

Take, for example, one crucial interaction the two share early on. Oliver touches Elio’s shoulder while a group of people are playing volleyball, and Elio wiggles away.

In the novel, you’re treated to this passage:

…I was so spellbound that I wrenched myself free from his touch, because a moment longer I would have slackened like one of those tiny wooden toys whose gimp-legged body collapses as soon as the mainsprings are touched…It never occurred to me that what had totally panicked me when he touched me was exactly what startles virgins on being touched for the first time by the person they desire: he stirs nerves in them they never knew existed and that produce far, far more disturbing pleasures than they are used to on their own. 

It’s a deliberately relatable sensation, placed early in the book to show you that Elio’s passion is rooted in desires we’ve all shared. Not until later do we have the inkling that this brief moment is something beyond a casual interaction at a volleyball game.

In the movie, though, you see that scene play out over a split second as Elio squirms away. No explanation is offered, leaving the viewer to ask “Is he hurt? Is he being cautious? Is Elio even interested in Oliver?” Where the novel embeds you in Elio’s psyche, the screen version gives you neither Elio’s desire nor Oliver’s doubt in the moment. The scene is loaded with potential precisely because of its ambiguity — we could be any of those casual volleyball game bystanders, unaware that something far more tender is blossoming in their midst.

And those moments of viewer interpretation are echoed again and again throughout the movie. For instance, after Elio and Oliver’s first night together, Aciman spends pages and pages on Elio’s complicated thoughts about what just happened. As Aciman outlines in the novel, Elio and Oliver’s coupling is not the be-all-end-all bliss Elio imagined, but Elio feels that if it had remained in his imagination he would have gone mad wanting to live the experience. 

Something bordering on nausea, something like remorse – was that it, then? – began to grip me and seemed to define itself ever more clearly the more I became aware of incipient daylight through our windows…I had known it would hurt. What I hadn’t expected was that the hurt would find itself coiled and twisted into sudden pangs of guilt.

Elio feels disgusted with himself, yet he cannot regret the decisions he never questioned. He feels an unbridgeable distance growing between him and everyone and everything tied to his life before the night with Oliver.

The beauty of the movie is that instead of analyzing [the scene] for us, we as the viewer get to watch Elio experience it.

In the film, all of those conflicting thoughts must be conveyed through Chalamet-as-Elio’s face, where it can be hard, as a an outside viewer watching an actor, to piece apart all those warring emotions just by watching. 

But once again, that ambiguity may be the film’s strength. It seems impossible that this building, tumultuous romance would include the sort of temporary revulsion Aciman describes in the novel. It is the paradox of not wanting someone once you find out they want you, and the beauty of the movie is that instead of analyzing it for us, we as the viewer get to watch Elio experience it.

That’s not to say that Elio has cast away Oliver. The moment Oliver leaves for the day, Elio longs for his company as both friend and lover. In the book, readers are offered:

He was my secret conduit to myself – like a catalyst that allows us to become who we are, the foreign body, the pacer, the graft, the patch that sends all the right impulses, the steel pin that keeps a soldier’s bone together, the other man’s heart that makes us more us than we were before the transplant.
The very thought of this suddenly made me want to drop everything I would do today and run to him.

In the movie, viewers see this:

We see what Oliver sees, which is a confused kid grappling with sex and longing.

And perhaps that reveals the film’s greatest strength. Call Me By Your Name‘s not-so-secret weapon is Chalamet, whose performance communicates everything in Elio’s head and more if you watch closely enough.

Call Me By Your Name‘s not-so-secret weapon is Chalamet, whose performance communicates everything in Elio’s head and more

Take for instance, the film’s emotional closing, one long shot of Chalamet’s face presented during the credits in which we watch Elio process his relationship. Few other actors could carry such a powerful ending. Once again we are maddeningly distanced from Elio’s inner thoughts and can only wonder how he feels after everything that’s happened. You’ll relive every moment the two of them had together and hope it’ll yield answers. You’ll ache for him, a mere boy, as you watch the magnitude of the summer wash over him.

As it happens, the book ends well beyond that, with Elio recounting Oliver’s whereabouts and their missed connections well into adulthood. If the movie broke you, the book may offer some comfort in filling in what follows. Then again, it may break you all over again.

This isn’t as simple as a book or movie being better than its counterpart. Call Me By Your Name can and should be experienced in both forms: each text only enriches the other and bolsters this already soaring story of love, lust, and longing. 

The novel is phenomenally written, but the film offers a rare opportunity to interpret two people’s incredible journey of falling in love. It’s an opportunity that should be experienced before reading exactly what the main character feels in the novel. Instead of poring over the text beforehand, we can savor the opportunity to witness Elio and Oliver’s love without expectation, subject to our honest reactions and the actors’ raw performance. And afterward – as the Oscar buzz builds – we can read the book and marvel over what inspired such a magnificent movie.

We do not deserve either, to be clear. But we can damn well try to earn them.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2018/01/07/call-me-by-your-name-book-movie/

New Movie Reviews

‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ is one of the best superhero movies ever: Review

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There’s a new Spider-Man in town, and he’s freaking amazing.

Image: Columbia / Sony

“To say that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse feels like a comic book come to life may sound like faint praise, seeing as we’re two decades into a superhero movie boom that the original Spider-Man helped jump start.

But few recent films have embraced the comic book style and sensibility — its visual quirks and anything-goes openness — as wholeheartedly as Spider-Verse has, or enjoyed as fully the potential in combining the two mediums.

Right off the bat, Spider-Verse acknowledges that it’s probably the 700th Spider-Man story you’ve seen in the past few years. A voiceover “yada yadas” the basics of Peter Parker’s origin story, while winking at almost every iteration of it; even the much-maligned Spider-Man 3 gets a rueful shoutout. This movie isn’t afraid of a laugh at its own expense, though the knowing humor is more affectionate than biting.

Spider-Verse has a distinct feel unlike any other Spider-Man movie before.

When that montage ends with Peter telling us “there’s only one Spider-Man,” it plays like another joke, because we’ve seen so many Peters over so many years. And becomes even more of one once we meet Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore).

Though Miles has been a fan favorite in the comics since 2011, Spider-Verse marks his first time on the big screen. Accordingly, Spider-Verse has a distinct feel unlike any other Spider-Man movie before it.

Spider-Verse eschews both the slick three-dimensional look of most modern studio animated movies (think Pixar or Illumination) and the gritty “realism” of most live-action superhero movies, in favor of a flatter, sketchier aesthetic bursting with poppy colors, Ben-Day dots, and motion lines. It’s an obvious nod to Spidey’s ink-and-paper history, but it’s also an expression of how Miles, himself a character who’s grown up admiring Spidey and reading Spidey books, might view his own superhero saga…………………………………………”

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/spider-man-into-the-spider-verse-movie-review/

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New Movie Reviews

Creed II review – Rocky saga continues with knockout sequel

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“Before he delivered arguably Marvel’s most dazzling chapter to date, Ryan Coogler had managed something close to impossible in Hollywood: he had found a fresh way to reboot a dusty franchise. In a landscape of endless thirst and vacant remixing, he had somehow managed to concoct a nifty, imaginative way back into the Rocky saga with Creed, a film that felt old-fashioned yet fresh, intimate yet grand, a rousing return from the grave.

By focusing on the son of Rocky’s competitor-turned-friend Apollo Creed, Coogler was also able to reteam with Michael B Jordan, who made such an indelible impression in his first film, 2013’s devastating fact-based drama Fruitvale Station. The duo worked together again in Black Panther earlier this year, with Jordan switching tacks to play villain Killmonger, and so soon after, seeing him return as Creed is a further reminder of his broad star appeal, the sort of rare leading man one can imagine remaining at the top of his game for years to come. Given his time in Wakanda, Coogler was unable to return but he has handed over directorial duties to Steven Caple Jr, who impressed in 2016 with debut feature The Land, and it is a similarly deft rise from micro-budget indie to franchise film-making.

While it’s not quite the showstopper that its predecessor was, Creed II is still another knockout piece of entertainment. There’s a keen awareness of what made Creed work so well without it feeling like a lethargic rehash. This time, Adonis (Jordan) is the heavyweight champion of the world, in a loving relationship with his pregnant musician girlfriend Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and still living near and working out with a recovering Rocky (Sylvester Stallone). But there’s discontent from……………………………………..”

Read More Here: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/nov/16/creed-ii-review-rocky-sylvester-stallone-michael-b-jordan

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New Movie Reviews

They Shall Not Grow Old review – a breathtaking journey into the trenches

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Written by Mark Kermode, Observer film critic

“There’s a familiar mantra that computers have somehow taken the humanity out of cinema. In an age when it’s possible to conjure spectacular action from digital effects, many modern movies have developed a sense of weightlessness – the inconsequentiality of artifice. Along with Avatar director James Cameron, New Zealand film-maker Peter Jackson has been at the forefront of the digital revolution, with his twin Tolkien trilogies (The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit) pushing the boundaries of computer-generated entertainment.

Yet with his latest project, a revivification of the Imperial War Museum’s archive of first world war footage, Jackson has done something quite remarkable: using 21st-century technology to put the humanity back into old movie stock. The result is utterly breathtaking.

Commissioned for the Armistice centenary by IWM and 14-18 NOW in association with the BBC, They Shall Not Grow Old is not a document of the world at war. Rather, it is an arresting snapshot of the lives of British soldiers who went to fight in Europe, many of them having lied about their tender ages to enlist. There are no historians, narrators or political commentators to guide us; the voices we hear are those of veterans, many gathered by the BBC during the making of its 1964 documentary series The Great War.

As we watch a line of soldiers marching through mud towards the front, something extraordinary happens. The film seems almost miraculously to change from silent black-and-white footage to colour film with sound, as though 100 years of film history had been suddenly telescoped into a single moment. Stepping through the looking glass, we find ourselves right there in the trenches, surrounded by young men whose faces are as close and clear as those of people we would pass in the street. I’ve often argued that cinema is a time machine, but rarely has that seemed so true………………………………………………”

Read the rest of the article here: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/nov/11/they-shall-not-grow-old-peter-jackson-review-first-world-war-footage

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