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Film: "I Am Love", set in Italy, by Director Luca Guadagnino

Posted By: The Annotico Report, Italia Mia Network on June 28, 2010 in Annotico Report, Italy - Comments: No Comments »

In "I Am Love", Emma, a Russian immigrant, living in Italy, has married into an extremely wealthy family and seems to have everything but risks it all to pursue a passionate affair with her son's business partner. Because her lover is a chef, we are treated to yummy shots of pasta and fish mixed in with sensual images.
"I Am Love" is a collaboration of director Luca Guadagnino and Tilda Swinton, and far away their biggest project, a $10 million romantic drama that's been gestating for more than a decade. Their relationship began in 1994, when he was a 22-year-old aspiring filmmaker and she, at 34, already was an established figure in avant-garde cinema. 
Romantic Drama a Labor of Love for Tilda Swinton
San Francisco Chronicle; Ruthe Stein, Chronicle Movie Correspondent; Sunday, June 27, 2010
Tilda Swinton has inspired three of director Luca Guadagnino's films. But don't call her his muse.
"A muse is like this piece of art that is there for you but is passive," he said. "You can't call a muse a person you are related to in a very organic relationship."
That relationship began in 1994, when he was a 22-year-old aspiring filmmaker and she, at 34, already was an established figure in avant-garde cinema. Guadagnino mustered his courage and his limited English to approach Swinton after she had given a lecture and ask her to appear in his film.  To his surprise and gratification, she agreed. "He felt like a fellow traveler," Swinton recalled.
Short of funds to bring her to Rome to work with him, Guadagnino borrowed money for her ticket and put her up at the house where he'd been staying. "I straightened it up first," he said with a laugh.

Decade in the making

Swinton starred in his debut feature, "The Protagonists," and in "The Love Factory," which consists of a close-up of her talking about love for 40 minutes. Their latest collaboration, "I Am Love," is far and away their biggest, a $10 million romantic drama that's been gestating for more than a decade.
In between, Swinton went from making experimental films to playing the white witch in Disney's "The Chronicles of Narnia" and winning an Oscar for "Michael Clayton." "Her Oscar made it possible for us to get financing," Guadagnino said.
To play Emma, a Russian immigrant living in Italy, Swinton learned to speak Italian with a Russian accent. She spoke the words phonetically, the way opera singers do. Emma has married into an extremely wealthy family and seems to have everything but risks it all to pursue a passionate affair with her son's business partner. Because her lover is a chef, we are treated to yummy shots of pasta and fish mixed in with sensual images. (Carlo Cracco, a top Milanese chef, served as a consultant.)

Passion for melodrama

"Luca and I dreamt this film up together. He is one of my best friends, and that's what we do: We drum stuff up together," Swinton said, swathed in a long black coat to keep warm during the Sundance Film Festival, where "I Am Love" screened. It's been well received on the festival circuit and acquired an American distributor at Toronto.
The pair's creative process began by reading Russian novelists and Flaubert. In terms of directors, their influences were Alfred Hitchcock, Luchino Visconti, John Huston and Douglas Sirk....
They sought to make a sensational melodrama like he might have. "There has been recently a kind of way in which melodrama has been taboo in cinema. For a critic to say a film is melodramatic would actually be insulting it," Swinton said, adding they hope to reverse this thinking.
The highpoint of Guadagnino's over-the-top filmmaking is a scene of the illicit lovers caressing. Close-ups of their bodies are interspersed with details of flowers and insects.
His inspiration was the Italian documentary "The Blue Planet," which portrays each season from morning until night. "There is a moment of a boy and girl making love in the grass. I always wanted to remake that sequence," Guadagnino said.
"But this wasn't a sterile homage to a movie. It is organic to the story, which is about the liberation of the body. Tilda's character had denied the use of her body. But with this boy, this great chef, she can be herself and immerse herself in the world of sensuous feeling."

Nature can't be denied

Swinton sees Emma as "having denied her nature too long. And then her nature comes out and asks to be heard and can't be denied any longer."
The film's positive reviews may help Guadagnino with his long-term goal, which is to make movies in the United States. "I want to become a Hollywood insider because I pay a great respect to Hollywood," he said. The world of Italian filmmaking "is too narrow for me, and the films are not seen around the world...
He was impressed that a film such as "Gran Torino," with no stars except Clint Eastwood, "still had this amazing cast. That's the world I want to work in. I'm not interested in the formula Hollywood movies. I don't think I'm good enough to do that. Also, I think I would get bored."
He would like to make films such as "I Am Love" with Swinton sometimes starring and other times producing and perhaps even directing. She is practically an old Hollywood hand, a fact that amazes her, considering her strong roots in independent cinema. She made seven films in nine years with British director Derek Jarman and has continued to work with other indie icons, including Sally Potter and Lynn Hershman.
"When I was invited to come to other people's parties in Hollywood, it was really delightful to me because it was like going into other people's worlds," Swinton said. "I have always felt welcome, but I think maybe things have to be described more and explained more. The independent world is just more familiar."
Winning a best supporting actress Oscar in 2008 "feels like a sort of wonderful red herring, really. It certainly wasn't on my dance card, and it is certainly not a direction I planned to go in, but it is nonetheless delightful," said Swinton, who gave the award to her agent and has no idea where it now resides.

Running film festival

If the Oscar helped to get "I Am Love" and her most recent film, "We Need to Talk About Kevin," made, "I'm only so happy." In her latest movie, she plays a mother trying to assess her personal responsibility when her son goes on a killing spree in a high school.
Between film shoots, Swinton runs a festival of older and classic films. The first one was held in the small village in Scotland where she lives...
I Am Love (R) opened this weekend at Bay Area theaters.     To see a trailer for "I Am Love," go to

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