Call Me by Your Name

Call Me by Your Name ★★★★★

I think about this movie pretty often. I mean, this is my 9th viewing since January. And I am bound to watch it again before this year is over. I don't even see Timothee Chalamet or Armie Hammer anymore. I just see Elio and Oliver.

They are so convincing in their roles. And the movie's world is so beautiful that it transcends the limitations of runtimes and instead plays over and over again in my mind like some implanted memory from Blade Runner.

It's my favorite queer romance on film.

And

Lately I have been thinking a lot about masculinity and my own struggles with it. And during this 9th viewing of Call Me By Your Name I was preoccupied with how the characters Elio, Oliver and Mr. Perlman all perform masculinity. And what that means for men in general, who are asked to uphold and even build upon their own masculinity through ritualistic displays of attraction to the opposite sex. Partaking in dangerous activities or just by fucking in general. What that means for gay men and how women often suffer for it. And I have always been surprised by how this movie presents masculinity in such a nuance way. Perhaps more nuance than many queer films, which tend to be more preoccupied with homophobia or contrived situations of crisis. In fact, the financial privilege of the characters seems to allow them to focus inward. The homophobia in Call Me By Your Name is predominately internalized. We're afraid, queer men act out in ways to not be discovered. We use women. We make them our 'beards' so people look at us and applaud. "That is one happening guy. She's so pretty. She's going to get it. There's not an ounce of femininity in him. He is 100 % male. He likes to fuck her. He definitely wants to." It's a patriarchal gaze that makes gay men sometimes abusive to women IMO.

And one of the great observations Luca Guadagnino has in this film is with Elio and how he performs masculinity. With Marzia, in particular. His movements are looser, he is more assertive and physically aggressive. He pulls off her swimsuit and eats her out. He rolls around on a mattress in a dusty old attic. He makes out with her against a wall. He makes sure that old gay couple see him with her. He stands smoking a cigarette the way he thinks Oliver would. He models himself after Oliver in ways. Finds himself in competition with the idea of Oliver in his head. It is internalized homophobia - "I am always less than, I am too feminine, I am always ugly" and just deeply insecure. Oliver is perfection to him. No one witnesses his vulnerability as much as the viewer does. He thinks Oliver is simply better than him in so many ways. That is why the outdoor dancing scene is one of the most powerful queer moments in film history.

Because Elio watches Oliver dancing with so much abandonment (seemingly like no one is watching.) And that freedom, even though illusionary, is overwhelming for the viewer (for me at least) and Elio. He wants to possess that power to hypnotize. He wants to make people react to him the way he reacts to Oliver when he walks into the room. Arrested. "Love His Way." He doesn't want to be anxious about himself, unsure about his identity anymore. He wants to be Oliver. If you could hang a film moment on a wall, this is the centerpiece of male/male desire. This sums up my experiences in so many ways.

And he is the complete opposite with Oliver than he is with Marzia. Puppy-ish. With a child-like shyness. He climbs into his arms 'like a baby' as it is described in the book. It's so fucking real. It is so honest. He wants Oliver to like him so badly, so he can like and know himself. Oliver is so happy to be liked. Because he is used to just pushing people away (his way of preventing discovery). He doesn't realize Elio likes him so much.

"That is the kindest thing anyone has said to me in months."

A lot of film reviewers miss Oliver's perspective in the story. I think it is because it has to all be interpreted based on Armie Hammer's performance. The movie is very much from Elio's perspective. Oliver is harder to get. Some people even say he is a blank slate, but that is very incorrect. He is basically Montgomery Clift or Rock Hudson in many ways. He has the looks, and presence of the most manly of celebrities. Those tiny shorts revealing endless legs. The parted shirt with flirtatious chest hair sticking out around his Star of David. He presents the Hollywood template of the heterosexual male. But, like Clift and Hudson, his presentation to the world was one big lie. Elio didn't realize that until they have sex and becomes distant the morning after. Was it because the grand illusion came crashing down? Was it bottom shame (something that is very real and very sad?) The movie is purposefully hush-hush about. Potentially a flaw in this masterpiece. But according to the commentary, several lines of dialogue were recorded during this moment and was simply edited out. Guadagnino wants your experiences with love, lust and sex to infer what it means. That is key to why this movie is so powerful to many, many people - changed lives and there's a book coming out about just that (I contributed to it). Your life infers its meaning in ways most movies could only dream. The film is shot and edited in ways to purposefully provoke introspection and self-reflection. The pan over to the waterfall, the jarring cuts. The sound bridges.

It's art during a time popular films are straying from that reality.

I love how Elio and Oliver's attraction to each other is complimentary. It makes their love affair live after the movie is over. Elio sleeping with Oliver allows him to gain his confidence and his perceived experience and secureness in his identity. Even though after they fuck, it is revealed he is not as secure or as confident as we/Elio originally thought. By sleeping with Elio, Oliver is allowed to express his gayness and be vulnerable for the first time in the movie. He even appears more feminine after they sleep together. Though Elio immediately makes him panic with fears of rejection. He doesn't put the sunglasses on again, but Elio wears them. He's the distant one now (sunglasses symbolism!!) Oliver reaches his final form. There's a brief power struggle where both misunderstand each other (the peach scene). It's messy, it's real and honest. Thank god for honesty. Even if it gets ugly, we all make mistakes. And fuck you for thinking it's abusive. As if life could be that simple. We don't live in ideals.

And to further the 'masculinity as ritualistic performance' metaphor is Mr. Perlman and Michael Stuhlbarg's flamboyant portrayal of the professor as super enlightened. And even a bit queer. He gives his character an overwhelming femininity that grays his gender performance. His sexuality. His cultivation of his mind and focus on his studies has made him not preoccupied with the constant struggle of appearing straight or being afraid of how his gender is presented. I have known fathers like Mr. Perlman actually. Endlessly accepting and very liberal. The author of the book Andre Aciman created the character in the image of his own father. Culturally Jewish, very open minded. Very accepting. So many of the male professors in my life have all shown a flair for the flamboyancy. I think conditioning your mind so much makes you like a perfect mix of masculine/feminine. He transcends labels. This movie transcends labels during a time people are desperate to label everything as problematic, or as empowering, or as Nazis or communism or or or or or or or anything though words always fail to completely encompass the human experiences with love, lust, loss and a growing understanding of the world. And that's why trenders will always completely miss it. It ain't about labels.

*Elio's desire while he listens to Oliver piss is a true mood. Literally gayer than anything in Moonlight or Carol or Brokeback Mountain or Love, Simon.*

*So is sticking Oliver's swimming trunks over his head.*

Best romance.

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