Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

22 July 2010

I Am Love

Before catching I Am Love (Io Sono l'Amore) – about which I had been excited for weeks – I had never seen a Luca Guadagnino movie. I guess this should not come as much of a surprise. I have never even heard of any of these movies before, and – let's not lie – I've heard about a lot of movies.

I Am Love is, of course, intriguing first of all because it involves Tilda Swinton, and because it involves Tilda Swinton speaking Italian. I Am Love is also a food movie. Swilda falls in love with her son's friend because he is an excellent chef, so the moment of falling in love happens over a plate of prawns.

The movie is a lot of things. Let me say first that this is totally an art film, by which I mean this: I Am Love's most distinguishing feature is that the score is almost entirely the music of John Adams. Adams has not made many film scores, and there is a reason for this. This reason is the same reason that not a lot of films have been made with, say, the music of Steve Reich. Oddly, though, I found Adams' music very compelling for the film.

I Am Love is also shot in a very distinct way. I found the look of the film very similar to The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, which I think was probably a conscious choice on Guadagnino's part. There are a lot of odd aerial shots. It looks really cool.

The film's subject matter on the other hand, struck me as very conventional. It is the old, old, old story of a woman's (re?)awakening as she falls in love (sort of) with a younger man and begins an affair with him that points up just how unhappy she is with her life. This affair – and the woman's new dissatisfaction with her life – makes clear the corruption or the decadence of the society in which she lives. This realization happens for both the woman and the audience. It isn't exactly the most novel of plotlines.

But the filmmaking is just so interesting in I Am Love. The filmmaker's love of food is evident. The fashion is incredible. And the music, as I mentioned, is fascinating. How Guadagnino uses Adams' music is interesting. I Am Love is slow; it takes its time with plot, character, theme, all of it. And it certainly does not work the whole time – as I said, the plot is far more conventional than it ought to be – but I Am Love is always intriguing. There is always something cool to look at. Surprises are always occurring.

Also, the end. I love a good ending, and I have to say that I Am Love's ending is really, really awesome. And again, this is mostly to do with the fascinating score by Adams.

Anyway, I think this is worth checking out if you are into slow cinema. It doesn't always work as well as it wants to, but it's got some great stuff in it.