Cast members in Sicilian director Luca Guadagnino’s new film, “I Am Love,” didn’t have to fall back on Method Acting when tasting the sumptuous meals on display.
The writer/director makes sure the best chefs around prepared fresh versions of the entrees the characters consumed for each round of takes.
“It’s important to see a moment where there’s a relationship between the acting and the food,” Guadagnino explains.
Most films don’t even bother to make the connection, he says.
“Being a gourmet myself and a cook, it’s difficult for me to find a moment in filmmaking with food that is organic, not decorative, not a production design tool,” he says, citing the infamous strudel scene in “Inglourious Basterds“ as one example of a director getting it just right.
Food plays a critical role in “I Am Love,” the story of a seemingly content married woman (Tilda Swinton) who starts a passionate affair with a young chef (Edoardo Gabbriellini). Swinton’s character is initially taken by the chef’s cuisine, which sparks a romance which transforms her staid life.
The film sprang from an earlier collaboration between director and star on a 2002 short film called “The Love Factory.”
The actress sees love “as a revolutionary force,” he says. “It’s a very distinctive way of thinking. It impressed me and inspired me. ‘I Am Love‘ is a narrative version of what Tilda was saying.”
His film includes a ravishingly shot sex scene and plenty of romantic fireworks. But his leading lady rarely let her character, Emma, go emotionally wild.
“Me and Tilda always felt Emma as a sort of restrained kind of person, somebody quiet,” he says. The beauty of the performance is seeing the micro-movements in her face as her life dramatically changes, he says.
I Am Love Tilda SwintonThere’s very little “micro” about the film’s second half. While “I Am Love” demands patience as it sets the scene of Emma’s seemingly charmed life, the affair sends the story careening in vibrant directions.
“I like movies with a very bold structure. [Stanley] Kubrick is a genius in that,” he says, adding the violent mood swing in “Psycho” as a classic example.
He understands the risk such a strategy entails.
“You may lose the attention span of the audience, but I believe audiences are much more radical and intelligent than depicted by marketing departments,” he says. “If you have the patience to get into the pace of the movie, the outcome can be much bolder.”
And there’s nothing shy about the film’s score by John Adams, a sweeping series of arrangements that all but shouts its arrival.
“I like music that is a character in a movie. I don’t like to be Mickey Moused by the music in the movie, or to be told by the music what to feel,” he says.
One of Guadagnino’s next projects is a far cry from the domestic disarray found in “I Am Love.” He’s producing a remake of Dario Argento’s horror classic “Suspiria.”
The movie frightened him as a child, but it also gave him an early sense of how films could play with our emotional fabric.
“We don’t want to make it because it’s a fashion to remake horror movies,” says Guadagninio, adding David Gordon Green (“Pineapple Express“) to direct. “It’s an homage.”
And he doesn’t mind dipping his toes in Hollywood’s waters to help make it happen.
“Hollywood is one of the greatest sources of imagery in the world. I cannot but be attracted by it,” he says. “Even if there’s a lot of formula and marketing, I still feel there’s a great chance to do something powerful there.“
Christian Toto is a veteran journalist and film critic whose work appears in The Denver Post, The Washington Times and PajamasMedia.com. His movie reviews are heard on WTOP radio and “The Dennis Miller Show,” and he blogs on film at What Would Toto Watch?
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