Jul 24, 2010

I Am Love

I love Tilda Swinton, who with this movie becomes the actress who is best at having amazing scenes while sitting in the loo. She won an Oscar for her scene in the loo in Michael Clayton, and in this Italian movie she has another beautiful scene, as we say in Mexico, where the queen goes alone. She is gorgeous and elegant but not even her presence can save this movie from being an arty mess.
I love grand family melodramas, especially if they happen in Europe, where there is  old money, history and gravitas, and less vulgarity. And the plot of I Am Love is dreamy: a rich family, succession, rivalry between children, a torrid love affair. The problem is in the direction and the writing. The characters are half sketched, and too much style gets in the way. How many scenes of bees and flowers can one take? Or rain falling over sculptures signifying tragedy -- groaners all. Then some actors are amazing (Swinton, the woman who plays the head maid) and some are terrible. It's all very uneven. Even though director Luca Guadagnino is going for a style of yore (look at the opening titles), directors like Visconti knew that the more tragic the drama, the more straightforwardly it should be told, with bold gestures but easy on the style flourishes. And although there are a couple of lovely, moving moments in this film, too many are overwrought with an artsy touch, where perhaps just straight over the top would have been better. At times, the movie reminded me of that ridiculous, pretentious Louis Vuitton ad that always gets a healthy dose of Bronx cheers at downtown cinemas.
The film has a strange rhythm, it's edited weirdly and towards the end it really squanders our good will and patience, but there is something rich and half rewarding about the milieu, and the asphyxiating atmosphere of family power struggles and dirty old money.

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