Visually stunning, but a very slow start. Perhaps my first mistake was having such high expectations. I am certain that someone who has studied film, particularly Italian film, may get more out of the movie than I did, and might see my commentary as blasphemous. But I have to say that I just felt that it dragged on, especially in the first half, and it felt rather pretentious. Nonetheless, I do have some good things to say about this film as well.
In I Am Love, Tilda Swinton plays Emma, who begins to feel unfulfilled by her life in a well-to-do Milanese family. This isn’t verbally expressed, at least not in the beginning, but you begin to pick up on her distance from the rest of the cast as they toil over the Recchi family business they inherited from the late patriarch, Edoardo. When Emma tastes the dishes that her son’s friend Antonio prepares, she is brought back to her passions for cooking and her longing for her Russian homeland. Finally the film begins to take off in the second half as desires take form and tragedy befalls the family. In the end you realize that although the men have all the power and money through their tight control of business, the women of this family are the true subjects of interest, following their own passions and not just looking at bottom lines and profit margins. Add to this a dramatic score, comparable in some ways, to Jonny Greenwood’s arrangements in There Will Be Blood. (Although this film’s score still pales in comparison to Greenwood’s). There is promise to this film, and I will definitely admit that I enjoyed it, and certainly became entangled in the story by the end. But it was a slow climb that I am willing to bet many do not have the patience to take in order to reach such a summit.
The beautiful cinematography is the saving grace for I Am Love, as I was unfortunately a bit disappointed in the way it crawled through events and character development. I don’t know why it had to start out so slowly. Maybe so that the passionate love-making to follow in the second half would be that much more explosive. Unfortunately, Tilda Swinton reminds me of an android, and attempts to make her seem sexy and seductive were lost on me. However, as a postscript: I found out that Ms. Swinton learned Italian specifically for this role, and she did not previously speak the language. This is overwhelmingly impressive, the entire film is Italian and from the looks of things, so is the cast. I want to know what method she used (Rosetta Stone??). Maybe I can apply some of her techniques in my Spanish classroom. Oh shit, maybe she is a robot!
Although I complain about the slowness of the movie, I Am Love is like photography in motion, it is art as a film. This comes through in the way the lighting is played with, the style of the film’s flashbacks and fantasy sequences, which are definitely above and beyond many movies I have seen. And as it happens while observing art, it is hard to critique or analyze it without at least minimal background knowledge of the craft. I obviously love film, but I know very little about cinematography, the complexity of lighting and editing. While watching it, when I started to get bored with the way the plot was moving, I would try to put on a new set of eyes and observe why particular shots might have been chosen, what was unique about the lighting, or what emotions were being conveyed subtly by the actor that may not have been apparent at first glance. So it was a nice exercise in considering style, especially since that is about all I got out of the first half.
I would probably give this movie a B/B- because even the titillating parts that made the slow parts worth sitting through eventually became exaggeratedly dramatic. And so it swings like a pendulum from absurdly boring to over-the-top. But it still gets sexy. Passionate love affairs and and the music tries to keep you with the emotions of the film. If you are in the right mood, I think this can be an excellent film. And when I feel more in that mood, (whatever that mood may be), I will watch it again.
I think in addition to the letter-grade scale that I have been giving movies on Medicinema thus far, (can you tell I’m a teacher?), I will add the would-I-watch-it-again and would-I-buy it grade. Because ultimately this is what I think at the end of every movie I watch, no joke. So…
would I watch it again: yes
would I buy it: I’m thinking no. I’ll let you know if that changes after a second viewing.