Movie Review – “Call Me By Your Name”

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*Contains spoilers*

I have watched this film three times now, and it gets better at each viewing.

Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name is a feast for the senses – an erotic buffet filled to the brim with symbolism, intellect and culture.

But most of all, innocence.

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Call Me By Your Name is the story of 17 year-old Elio’s sudden infatuation with 24 year-old graduate student, Oliver, one of a succession of yearly summer visitors brought to the beautiful Italian villa by his father to help with paperwork and for the chosen student’s own intellectual and spiritual enrichment. It is based on the book of the same name by André Aciman, which I read before viewing the film. In this case, the movie exceeded the promise of the book – which in itself was wonderful – by immersing the viewer in the lush Italian summer that Aciman writes about and by selecting Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer as the two lead actors.

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Their chemistry is palpable from the moment they first meet through the tentative attempts at flirting and seduction, through to the final moments at the train station when Oliver has to leave. Chalamet was deservedly nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor. Somehow, he is able to show every emotion and thought that crosses Elio’s mind as he tries to figure Oliver out and decipher his own confusing feelings of attraction.

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This is one of the most mature films I’ve ever had the privilege to watch. It is a story in which sex is as natural as breathing, as wonderful a part of growing up as anything else, where nothing is shameful about embracing one’s desires and enjoying the fruit of life. The peaches that ripen in Anella’s orchard are as full of promise and as sweet as Elio. They are innocent but sensual in their own right, just like him.

As Elio and Oliver bicycle through the Italian countryside growing ever more aware of their mutual attraction, the viewer is treated to such a natural growth of love and longing that it becomes a part of the landscape.

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The house in which Elio lives and where Oliver stays for the summer is a character in itself. Like Elio’s parents, the ancient villa is always welcoming, doors open wide to the sunshine, balconies overlooking vast expanses of grass and trees. But there are hidden passages and secret rooms too, where only the most loyal companions are taken. Elio’s private escape above back of the kitchen, where he brings Marzia to wile away the hours until his tryst with Oliver, is also the room where he has intimate relations with a ripe peach and later cries in Oliver’s arms over the fact that Oliver must soon leave.

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This film is a celebration of summertime, first love, sexual exploration of all kinds — opposite sex, same sex, solitary sex with a peach — beauty and desire. It is also a celebration of how a parent can let their child become an adult by sitting back and letting that child explore the world on his/her own terms. By understanding that sexuality is a natural part of living and that putting barriers around who we’re allowed to fall in love with or engage with sexually is a losing game, and why would we want to play it anyway?

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Call Me By Your Name Book

Priscilla – Anything but a Drag!

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My husband and our two children (13 and 10) were lucky enough to have a chance to attend Ottawa’s Tototoo Theatre’s grand production of the iconic Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at the University of Ottawa’s Alumni Theatre on Friday, May 26. My father, at 81, a veteran of live stage performance in Ottawa and London, England raved about this show and offered to pay for our tickets. We took him up on it.

I knew my thirteen year-old daughter would love it, what with the costumes, the rude language and obvious sexual innuendos. I wasn’t sure about my ten year-old son. But rather than getting a sitter for him I figured there wasn’t anything that offensive in the show beyond some colourful language and there was everything right with it. I wanted both my children to be exposed to a wonderful story about acceptance and inclusion, friendship and alternate kinds of parenting. In fact, until I read the summary online, I’d forgotten about the most touching and important part of the story – that Mitzi/Tick is traveling to Alice Springs to see his son and former wife in the hope that he can be a father to his boy.

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As expected, there weren’t many other children in attendance (unfortunately) but both my kids thoroughly enjoyed the performance. From the opening number to the lively finale, they were rapt and I’m sure it opened their eyes to the joy of being true to oneself and celebrating life in all its varying expressions. The costumes and musical numbers were wonderful and the choreography inventive and magical. The performances were excellent and each actor captured the spirit and uniqueness of his/her role.

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I was particularly impressed by Réjean Mayer-Dinelle’s take on the transgendered Bernadette, Kraig-Paul Proulx as Tick/Mitzi, and Cooper Dunn as little Benji, as well as Jamie Rice‘s performance as the sexy and irreverent Adam/Felicia.

Mayer-Dinelle combined the perfect cocktail of cynicism, fierce loyalty and vulnerability in his character. Bernadette arguably has some of the best lines in the play and the movie and Réjean delivered them with perfect voice and comedic timing.

Proulx brought a wonderful innocence and sincerity to the part of Tick/Mitzi and his interactions with Dunn as Benji were extremely poignant.

Jamie Rice as Adam/Felicia played his part with perfection and poise. As the younger of the three “Queens” he combined just the right amount of sauciness, immaturity and youthful optimism in his role.

Young Cooper Dunn will be an actor to watch as he grows and tackles more roles. His performance was beautiful and real, and I was struck by his gorgeous vocals and natural acting ability. To perform at such a young age in a show as nuanced and important as this one is to be commended and I’m sure he had an absolute blast.

Hugo Weaving in Priscilla Queen Of The Desert.

The venue at the University of Ottawa Alumni Theatre was small but accommodating. The seating in the theatre provided a great view from all levels and the lobby contained multiple seating areas. There were baked goods and drinks available for purchase at intermission and the only complaint I have is that only one out of two toilets in the women’s washroom were functional so there was a longer-than-normal line-up at the break.

We were informed during the introduction that Tototoo will no longer be a nomadic theatre group but will be firmly established at Ottawa’s well-known Gladstone Theatre for its 2017/18 season. Upcoming productions include Bent by Martin Sherman in October 2017, The Normal Heart  by Larry Kramer in March 2018, and My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding by Irene Sankoff and David Hein in June 2018.

Tickets/packages can be purchased at The Gladstone.