Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I Am . . . Clothes, Music, Food . . .

I had a few What I Wore shots for you, but then I left that camera in our Vancouver apartment. Instead, why don't I finally tell you about I am Love. If you haven't seen the movie yet, you have heard about its sumptuous decor and, especially, the stunning wardrobe designed by Raf Simons (of Jil Sander) for Tilda Swinton. Swinton's clothing is an additional tool through which her character's personality and narrative arc is expressed. It's beautiful clothing, elegant, somehow spare and rich simultaneously, restrained beauty in the earlier part of the film, increasingly exuberant as she moves toward, then into, her affair. The clothing is an expression of the wealth she enjoys through her husband, but it's also an expression of the constraints that wealth imposes -- so the lust it might inspire among its audience is somewhat ironic. Like the gorgeous rooms Swinton's character moves through, the fabulous linens and place settings on which the family receives mouth-watering course after course served by crisply uniformed servants, the clothing is part of the luxe porn that makes the film so sensuously satisfying to watch. At the same time, this wealth is, ultimately, condemned on several levels, , although I should say no more for fear of spoiling the ending for you.

Much has been said about the film's costuming already, of course, but I hadn't read anything to prepare me for the cinematography and the way that camerawork is complemented by the film score. I've never seen anything that compares to the close-up work in Love. The macro lens goes in to accent seemingly random details and to meditate on them one by one -- there's a tantalizing, wonderful scene where food is treated this way to amazing effect; others where it's flower petals or grass seeds or insects that yield their smallest parts to the camera's dissection. And the music that accompanies this? Why hadn't I heard that the film score was predominantly John Adams? Yes, that John Adams -- of Nixon in China fame, the opera we saw last spring and were blown away by -- a considerable part of I am Love's soundtrack comprises selections from the opera. Adams' minimalist use of motifs which build intensity through repetition powerfully pairs with the camerawork to deliver one of, if not the, most compelling sex scenes you'll have seen in a long time.

I have to admit that the narrative and the character development didn't convince or seduce me -- the film's script is very far from its strong point. But what a joy to watch Swinton -- so impressive that she speaks Italian (among other languages) well enough to play this part. (I've no idea whether she manages to at least imply the Russian accent that her character would have). And so does Marisa Berenson, who I haven't seen in anything forever, but who plays one of those very thin, very well-dressed, almost aristocratic Italian women very credibly.

The film definitely has its detractors, but although it may fall short in terms of its script, you will certainly feel you've had your money's worth as you leave the theatre. I would urge, though, that you try to see it now while it's still in the theatre. Unless you have a crazily-expensive home entertainment room, you'll have trouble replicating the effect of the big screen and film projector combo, never mind the sound. Adams' score really deserves to be heard on great speakers, and somehow this seems a movie for red plush theatre seats -- I'd skip the popcorn, though. It won't compare well with the film's culinary temptations.


  1. Oh, I've been wanting to see this for ages. I really hope we get a chance while it's still in theaters. Thanks so much for this very well crafted review!

  2. Thank you for the review, now I definitely want to see the film. Unfortunately it's already left the immediate area. May have to wait for netflix.

  3. I'll go on the next %5 Tuesday and enjoy the juxtaposition. Berenson's heritage is the Italian aristocracy (on her titled mother's side, her grandmother was Elsa Schiaparelli) so that role does not seem like such a reach. Tilda Swinton inhabits clothes like few other actors, thanks for the encouragement to see this.

  4. I would love to see that, but I think it is very likely that I missed it at the one local theater likely to show it. It is vaguely possible that it came here briefly at the one "art" theater at a time when I couldn't get out to see it. It may be the DVD for me.

  5. I'd love to hear what you all think when you do get to see it. And having said that it's best on the big screen, better to watch the DVD than to miss it entirely, for sure.
    Duchesse: You are such a fount of knowledge! That background really does mean that Berenson's performance wasn't too much of a stretch for her at all, nor the Italian fluency. But ooh, Swinton is so very watchable in this!

  6. Tilda Swinton is amazing! I love watching her in interviews, she is so articulate and eloquant. Here she is being interviewed by Katie Couric: I will keep a look out for this movie - it might be one for the art house theatres here rather than the multiplexes. Patricia

  7. It has been on my maybe to buy list for ages as it is out on DVD here. Now I will although most do say it is a triumph of style of script sometimes just to see such beauty is enough.

  8. Patricia: Thanks for that link; I'll try to find the time to watch that. And yes, it was primarily in the art house theatres here as well.
    Alison: Exactly! I was able to forgive what I saw as weaknesses in the script just to be fed such beauty -- indeed, I'll happy watch it again once the DVD is available, especially for the soundtrack-cinematography combo.


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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