I AM LOVE
At the turn of the millennium in Milan, Emma Recchi (Tilda Swinton), the stylish matriarch of the Recchi household, finds her life take a sudden turn when her father in law (Gabriele Ferzetti) dies, leaving the family business in the hands of her husband Tancredi (Pippo Delbono) and their son Edoardo Jr (Flavio Parenti). Struggling to cope with the feeling that she no longer has a place in her children's lives, Emma joins her daughter (Alba Rohrwhacher) on a trip to Nice, stopping in Sanremo where she feels a sense of joy and freedom. A passionate encounter with her son's business partner Antonio Biscaglia (Edoardo Gabriellini) helps her escape her loneliness and isolation. But when her secret is discovered, it leads to tragic consequences.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Ponderous from beginning to end, scalded by its often feverish soundtrack, this overlong melodrama fails to engage or excite, despite the talented Tilda Swinton as Emma Recchi and a strong supporting cast.
Too many meandering, pointless scenes and filler images (cutlery, table setting, kitchen work, buildings, driving, field flowers...) drain the film of any energy it might have had. Perhaps John Adams was trying to make up for that with his score.
Some may also find Emma's first kiss with Antonio (Edoardo Gabriellini) not only sudden but the scene all too throw away. The subsequent jumps from Sanremo to Milan, with Antonio and Emma, are rather confusing, taking away the dramatic arc of the relationship. But more than anything, it's the absence of any way to understand the characters that holds us back from any emotional involvement. And it lacks even a smidgin of wit; indeed, the film's primal sex scene is so trite as to be silly, with the extreme close ups intercut with shots of the birds, flowers, bees ...
The final sequence is frantic but meaningless to an audience already divorced from the entire Recchi family.
Review by Louise Keller:
Tilda Swinton is the mainstay of this internal film about love, passion and family. Luca Guadagnino's film is probably not for those in a hurry, but for those with patience, an interest in life's small details and how things evolve, there is some wonderful imagery to enjoy. My main reservation is the strident use of composer John Adams' music throughout. It's as though Guadagnino is using a frenetic musicality to reflect the inner sensibilities of the characters and the settings. I like the idea of using music in this way, but in execution, it overpowers the narrative and ends up being irritating rather than enhancing to the film's emotional arc.
When the film begins, we observe Milan as a winter wonderland - trees laden with snow, roads, roofs, parks and footpaths all are immersed in it. The high pitch of the music fades as the camera takes us inside where Swinton's Emma is making final preparations for a formal dinner to celebrate Grandpa's (Gabriele Ferzetti) birthday. There's a business decision and an incidental meeting, both of which impact the lives of all the characters.
Time passes and the seasons change. Likewise, things evolve and there are changes - all slowly and with cinematic restraint. We get a real sense of being there: the trailing geraniums in the street, the summer colours, people bustling on their way. The camera follows Emma through a room as she walks through the house; long passages without dialogue, just music.
Then comes the journey to San Remo, resulting in passion - in bed and in the fields, with her son's partner Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini). Like everything else in the film, it happens slowly. He takes off her shoes, then her belt, her symbolically coloured flame trousers, her necklace, her blouse and her bra. Then passion kicks in. He cuts her hair, the camera dwells on the flowers, leaves and insects as Antonio focuses on Emma's nipple, when they make love in the grass. There's friction, passion and ecstasy. The subplots involving other family members are interesting to a point, but it is the central relationship between Emma and Antonio and Emma's relationship with her son (Flavio Parenti) that form the story's core.
Melodrama strikes towards the end when the film's tone changes dramatically. Although I enjoyed much of the journey, the ending falls flat for me, ironically being the only time the music is used in a subtle way.
Published first in the Sun-Herald
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I AM LOVE (MA15+)
Io Sono L'Amore
CAST: Tilda Swinton, Flavio Parenti, Edoardo Gabbriellini, Alba Rohrwacher, Pippo Delbono, Diane Fleri
PRODUCER: Luca Guadagnino, Francesco Melzi d'Eril, Marco Morabito, Tilda Swinton, Alessandro Usai, Massimiliano Violante
DIRECTOR: Luca Guadagnino
SCRIPT: Luca Guadagnino
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Yorick Le Saux
EDITOR: Walter Fasano
MUSIC: John Adams
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Francesca Balestra Di Mottola
RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto Distribution
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 24, 2010