Movies :I am Love * * * * *
(16, limited release)
Published 09/04/2010 | 05:00
Luca Guadagnino is a film-maker and, one suspects, a man of extraordinary nerve. He was working as a journalist in the 90s when he announced to Tilda Swinton that he wanted to make a film with her. A friendship and a collaboration on a short film ensued, but I Am Love is the full fruition of their partnership, and quite a film it is too.
I Am Love is so big and bold and uncompromisingly grand that it will probably not be for everyone. But, for me, Guadagnino has created a sweeping, handsome and unstintingly sensual near masterpiece that even manages to get away with its constant references to Luchino Visconti.
The great man's 1963 classic The Leopard is constantly evoked by I Am Love's themes and style, but Guadagnino's film ultimately stands on its own feet as an engrossing and deeply affecting family saga.
Swinton plays Emma Recchi, the beautiful and dutiful wife of a well-heeled Milanese industrialist who is heir to a multi-million euro textile empire. Emma is Russian, and married her husband Tancredi Recchi (Pippo Delbono) young: they have three grown children, and live in regal splendour in a Milanese art deco mansion.
In a magnificent opening sequence, Guadagnino sweeps from scenes of a snowbound city to the splendid interior of the Recchi home, as a grand meal is prepared by a small army of servants. It's the birthday of Eduardo Recchi (Gabriele Ferzetti), the crusty pater familias. After dinner, he rises to speak and tells his guests he'll be passing the business on to his son Tancradi, but also to his beloved grandson, Eduardo Jr (Flavio Parenti). This decision will lead to a battle of wills over the company's future once the old man dies, but meanwhile Emma has other problems to contend with.
She has discovered that her daughter, Elisabetta (Alba Rohrwacher) is a lesbian, and when Emma meets a friend of Eduardo Jr's, she is forced to confront the aridity of her emotional life. Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini) is a gifted chef, and Emma risks everything when they fall in love.
From the very start, I Am Love proclaims its artful ambitions, using montage and sweeping tracking shots and the sumptuous music of John Adams to bring its moral tale to life. It's big, grand, momentous film-making, and the kind of movie that it's impossible to sit on the fence about. You'll either love it or hate it, and I loved it to bits.