Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lo sono L'amore

Red & Gold, 2006

The other night my wife and I went to see I Am Love (Lo sono L'amore), the new movie starring Tilda Swinton. Without ruining the plot for those of you who will want to see it, I’ll just say I Am Love is a very classy melodrama of love, betrayal and intrigue among the Italian haut bourgeoisie. You can see a montage of still photos from I Am Love here.

The story is a very old one, told many times before in literature, film and opera. It’s told here in a very spare Italian style. I Am Love is not a good movie for people who need a lot of exposition. Time passes without announcement. At least one pivotal character disappears to the grave without so much as a goodbye or further mention.

Two things made this movie stand out. The first is its musical score by American minimalist composer John Adams. The musical stars of the movie are Adam’s Lollapalooza, which is used to great effect and which you can listen to here, and his Chairman Dance, a piece originally written as part of Adams’ opera Nixon in China. (It’s the music used in the montage above.)

For the most part, the characters in I Am Love reflect the stylish elegance of models in Italian fashion magazines. They’re sleek, graceful, modern and agile. But they never get to wear red.

That’s the other thing that stands out about this movie, its color palette. The movie opens with a series of landscapes in wintertime Milan. You may recall that Milan, the urban center of Italy’s manufacturing north, was largely destroyed during WWII. When it was rebuilt after the war it was filled with vast stretches of brutally ugly buildings. The colors in the first few minutes of the film are so subdued that you almost wonder whether the movie’s going to be in black-and-white.

[I’ve been to Milan twice, but only to get stuck at the airport between delayed airplane connections. So all I know about the city first-hand is what you can see from the Alitalia regional puddle jumper boarding lounge at Malpensa Airport.]

When the camera moves into the Recchi family mansion, though, the light becomes warm and tinged with gold and red. The house is modern, but has the high ceilings and gracious proportions of older Italian mansions. Footsteps echo on the elegant stone floors. Servants move quietly around. The décor is spare, but ever so sophisticated. Every detail is exquisite.

Red is, of course, a traditional metaphor for romance, and is used for that purpose throughout I Am Love, from Tilda Swinton’s hair color to the red of the prawns she eats to the red dresses she wears. You don’t need much exposition to figure out that she’s a fish out of water in this family. With all that red, you also don’t have to think too hard to realize that her life is going to be further confused by illicit romantic entanglement.

Be clear. This is a not a British parlor romance, nor a comedy of manners. This is a movie where food takes on the allure of sex and the sex itself is like a meal.

Maybe I Am Love should have been called I Am Red.

1 comment:

  1. This is a perfectly written movie "review" !
    You have made it sound so intriguing, triggering the "must see" in my head.
    Really nice photo, too!