I Am Love

Directed by Luca Guadagnino

Starring: Tilda Swinton, Flavio Parenti, Marisa Berenson, Edoardo Gabbriellini

Don't ask why a movie in Italian and Russian has an English title that so scratchily encapsulates the idea or trajectory of the story. Other people make those decisions, one guesses, not the director or producer.

As luscious in photographic sensuality as a film by Luchino Visconti, I Am Love is a voluptuous tale with many handsome and beautiful characters involved in the Recchi fabrica, factory, and the generations inheriting this most successful Milanese business from the grandfather who brought it to enormous profitability.

Central to the stories is the patron's daughter in law, played by an elegant, surpassingly controlled Tilda Swinton. If this does not win her the Oscar next year, and this film the Best Foreign Film, then somebody is smoking damaged weed.

Amid the swirling stories of thwarted young love gone astray for a same-sex chum, dutiful marriages exalted to thrumming orgiastic pleasure by illicit amour, sibling rivalries, decades-long family retainers who know their place but know every little intrigue going on in the fabulous marble mansion in Milano where most of the action takes place (along with a gorgeous rustic San Remo, and a business-like, austere London that is strangely devoid of irony or intrinsic emotion), gorgeous dowagers and clever performing-arts offspring, two things thread through this lush extravaganza of emotion and color:

First: A significant protagonist is a chef, and by the end of the film you will be drooling for the exotic and eye-filling Italian victuals. Second: Erotic fascination. Swinton has such an unbridled affair with her paramour that one feels embarrassed at not drawing the curtain. Significant nudity amid the foliage–and amusing scenic references to buzzing stilled birds and nectar-feeding bees.

Marisa Berenson, rarely seen in film but here used to excellent effect, is still lustrous and lovely. Swinton manages to be somehow ravishingly plain yet overridingly transformed into a beauty by her exaltation with love. She speaks a flawless Italian, and a pretty convincing Russian.

And then there is the stunning cinematography. Cunning angles of filming that most directors would scarcely attempt. And all that saliva-inducing oicho (a superb soup playing a key role in the story) served with utmost panache and plenitude. A delicious film in many ways we have come to savor because we see far too few of such consummate achievements.


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