The 37th Annual Hawaii International Film Festival Presented by Halekulani is here! At least, the first public screening is here, and it was for the much-anticipated romance film Call Me By Your Name, based upon the 2007 novel of the same name. The film adaptation is directed by the Italian-born Luca Guadagnino, whereas the novel was written by Egypt-born American writer André Aciman. Call Me By Your Name stars Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet, and is centered around the relationship that develops between their two characters (Oliver and Elio, respectively) during the 1983 Summer in Italy. Now, what did I think of the film?
Two of the best films centered around a gay romance from the past two years are 2015’s Carol, and 2016’s Moonlight, the latter of which won the Academy Award for Best Picture earlier this year. I only mention these two films because Call Me By Your Name evokes many of the same emotions and uses many of the same story beats that both of the previously-mentioned films do as well. This is not a bad thing, though, as this is, stylistically speaking, a completely different film than both Carol and Moonlight. The one thing that I felt was below average during the film was the editing, which felt disjointed and clunky. It was obvious from some of the cuts that perhaps important things were cut out, yet a peaceful transition was not put in the place of the discarded footage. This is really my only major problem with this film, though. Call Me By Your Name feels very manic, yet slow, and this is exhibited by the exquisite musical choices throughout the film, which include both classical piano pieces, as well as European 1980’s pop. Perhaps the most valuable things I will take away from Call Me By Your Name are the six or seven songs that will forever hold a place on my personal playlist. Concerning the cinematography, the visuals are very washed-out, reflecting the feeling of a humid, long-lasting summer.
The film takes a while to “heat up” (in more ways than one, might I add), but when it gets to the place it wants to be, it packs an emotional punch. Perhaps what exemplifies this quality of the film most is a monologue given by Elio’s father, played by Michael Stuhlbarg (in another predictably magnificent supporting performance), which may be the most emotionally powerful and resonant monologue given in any film that I have seen this year. This scene will certainly stay with me throughout the remainder of the festival, as well as my life.
The festival-going experience was not all sunshine and rainbows, though. This is my first film festival experience, and as such, I was expecting a more professional environment while viewing this film. My expectations were shattered, though, and not in a good way. I heard five different phones ring throughout the film, and that is not even the worst part. At one point, during a pivotal scene involving two men kissing, a woman got up and yelled something unintelligible concerning the gay community. I only know she was upset at this scene for that specific reason because I could only make out a couple words from her tirade. One being a seven letter word rhyming with “ducking,” and another being a synonym for a bundle of sticks. Of course, she was yelled at as she angrily stomped out of the theater, but it was a completely rattling moment during what should have been a quiet and intimate scene. So, to recap, Call Me By Your Name: highly recommended. Bigotry and having your cell phone on during a movie, on the other hand, both never recommended.