Directed by Luca Guadagnino
I Am Love
There are some films – call it most films – that depend on plot for their impact, which I guess is fine, in the same way that mystery novels depend on plot for their excitement. But sometimes there are films in which plot isn’t necessarily the important point. Luchino Visconti’s “The Leopard” is one of them – it’s a film in which almost nothing happens and yet we are glued to the screen waiting to find out what the outcome will be. It’s a conundrum but there you are.
I tell you this because the film “I Am Love” is that kind of film. There’s a wealthy family in Milan who’ve been in the fabric business for generations. At the film’s opening, a birthday party for the grandfather who runs the company, he tells the family that he will retire and is giving the company to his son Tancredi – and, a surprise, his grandson Edo. They will share the running of the business. Tancredi’s wife and the mother of Edo is Emma, a Russian emigrée who married into the family. She’s played with a barely hidden sensuality by the great Tilda Swinton, who seems to embody every single role she tries, from her debut in “Orlando” to “Michael Clayton.” She’s sleek, she’s sexy, yet here she never lets it show until the birthday party, when the man who served them the food catches her eye.
That’s Antonio, who catered the birthday party; a chef who also happens to be a sexy, beautiful young man. He is a friend of Edo, and we can quickly see the attraction between Emma and Antonio, and soon they are making love in a small getaway cottage near the Amalfi coast. If this were all it would be a sad and derivative film, but there’s more: Emma’s daughter Elisabetta announces that she is a lesbian and brings her partner to meet her mother, just when Emma is leaving the adulterous cottage.
Edo and Tancredi (the name is without doubt an homage to Visconti’s Tancredi, the nephew of Burt Lancaster’s Leopard who represents the new society in Italy) talk about starting a restaurant, but now Edo must work in the family’s company. Emma, however, is changed irrevocably, perhaps triggered by the fact that her daughter Elisabetta has forsaken her fiancé and finds love with a woman. I think this gives Emma the courage to begin her own affair with Antonio – something that is enhanced by the gorgeous film music by John Adams. Director Luca Guadagnino isn’t well known in the United States but “I Am Love” will no doubt help in that area.