Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I Am Love (2009)

Genre: Drama
This film, titled "Io sono l'amore" in Italian is a solid romantic-family drama, not the type of film I ordinarily go in for, but it delivers all the drama one would expect for a two hour investment.

It also features a great performance by Tilda Swinton as a Russian-born lady, Emma Recchi, who married early into a wealthy Italian family. She has spent her entire adult life in a secure place in a fashionable center of high society among the elite of Milan. But her daughter coming out as a lesbian ignites a personal search for her own inner being.

Swinton is the center of the film and she turns in quite a performance as a woman who has so assimilated into the haute bourgeoisie of Milan that she quite literally has lost her younger identity. Maybe it didn't matter so much when her kids were growing up but now they are grown and mature. She doesn't even use her original name, and her Russian past has been all but erased from her new life as the wife of a boring, but headstrong businessman.

Swinton reportedly learned Russian and Italian for the film, which took eleven years for her and the director and co-writer of the film, Luca Guadagnino, to being to the screen.

The story starts out slowly and confidently, with the family patriarch announcing over dinner that he has decided to retire the running of his business to both his son AND his grandson, a King Lear-like move that is just the beginning of the undoing of many family ties.

The film's main focus centers in the main around the relationship between Swinton's character and her grown son's best friend, a chef who is a decidedly good cook because he can seduce women with just the way he can saute a sea food entree or caramelize a dessert. Eroticism plays a major part of a couple key scenes, but the film itself also plays up the sterility of an older capitalistic society that has lost its drive.

Emma (a tip to Flaubert's famous literary heroine?) becomes obsessed with the younger man, and perhaps just as obsessed with finding a way out of her stifling life in the gilded cage of northern Italian high society.

The film climaxes to a tragedy, something you can feel coming all along. It's worthy of something out of Tennessee Williams or the two classic "Godfather" films of the seventies. The music score by John Adams, featured on the trailer below, is also outstanding.

Tilda Swinton fans, of course, and those who like seeing unflicnching family drama--with just as much dramatic punch and suspense as there are romantic interludes, will enjoy this one.


  1. This is one I hadn't heard of. Thanks for the review.

  2. Thank you. I like the look of this and shall see if I can buy it. I'll have to dip into my, Doug film fund jug.:-)

    It is the same jug I'm hoping someone will tell me is worth a lot of money for purchasing my movies.

    I think Oakie admires Tilda Swinton, although I may have that wrong.

  3. As Cassie indicates, Ms Swinton is my favourite actress (Though I'm a big Cate Blanchett fan too). I've followed her career for a quarter of a century and seen her move from an avant-garde, B-movie performer who didn't even class herself as an "actress" to an Oscar winner and a performer who has worked with prettymuch every major male lead actor in Hollywood in something like a mere half decade.
    Her cool, intelligent, erudite and classy performances mark her out in my opinion. And, at an age when many actresses are losing work because they are no longer "young" enough, she is making more films than ever. If you haven't seen it yet, try and get hold of Orlando, one of her earliest big budget films and the "moment" where she changed from an avant-garde artist into a big screen actress.

    It doesn't suprise me for a minute that Tilda Swinton learnt Italian and Russian for a film role. She comes from a highly academic background and was educated at one of the places that Lady Diana Spencer attended.

    I haven't seen "I am Love" yet, but the reviews, including your own, suggest an interesting film and I shall certainly rent it as soon as I rejoin my dvd rental company.

  4. I was happy to be able to go to a movie and see something with some emotional heft to it---in the Summer, it's a motley group at the movie houses. Film distributors are quite content to inundate theaters with movies about super-heroes (in the expensive 3-D format) and vehicles for aging action stars recycling tired revenge plots. The "serious"" films--and ones that are not set mainly to entice middle-schoolers-- often come out a week or two before Christmas, if at all.

    I think we all need a "film fund" jug, Cassandra! I currently just have a film fund shoebox, more stuffed with pennies than paper with dead presidents on it; not the sort of thing Shirley would think would look "just right" on the mantlepiece. ;-)

  5. An example of sterling taste on your part, Oakie, if 'I Am Love' is an indicator of how good this lady really as a lead in front of a camera. Cate Blanchett is also a marvelous talent.

    Tilda Swinton does seem to be defying the old adage that women actors break out early if successful and are given less work just as men's careers start going places. I'm a late comer to her career, but I was very impressed with her work in the C.S. Lewis "Lion, Witch, Wardrobe" film and her turn as a legal shark in the under-appreciated "Michael Clayton". "Orlando" is definitely one film I want to see now.

    I've seen a couple interviews she did for the film on You Tube and she does seem to be quite bright without coming off like a grande dame. She really gives a strong performance here that makes one wish the film was longer; that's pretty rare.

  6. I actually saw a trailer for this film the last time I went to the flicks to see Ghost (or the The Ghost Writer) which as synchronicity will have it.... was a film about a fictional Tony Blair and his supposed autobiography (very far-fetched...could never happen in real life of course).

    Anyway, I remember being impressed by the cinematography at the time, the setting I recall reminded me of Venice...... but you have put that right Doug and I now know it was Milan.

    I can hardly believe that this film took 11 years to make, that's amazing and it is also impressive that she learned Russian.

    I remember thinking at the time that I would like to see the film, the lighting appeals to me and I do like films with subtitles as a matter of fact. I didn't know much about Tilda Swinton (sounds like the lead female role in The Avengers) before, but you have aroused my interest in her and more particularly this film, so thanks for that Doug.

    Do I detect a developing theme here of films set in Northern Italy...... I bet not a lot of people know that Doug....but then again perhaps they do(?) I like the look of this one it seems moody and I always like that in a film, cheers Doug.

  7. Yes, Michael Clayton was a treat of a film. Tilda and George Clooney also worked together on the dry comedy Burn After Reading with the excellent John Malkovich.

    I haven't seen the CS Lewis film yet. I tend to steer clear of films that are "over-advertised" in a futile protest against the machine nature of Hollywood, which puts money ahead of art. Ironically though, it's meant that I've missed out on some critically acclaimed films like E.T. and Titanic. I've also missed out on Blanchett in the Lord of the Rings for the same reason, but she and Swinton have made plenty of other films, hehe!

    Orlando was adapted from the Virginia Wolf novel by Sally Potter. It's quite a surreal film. I really enjoyed it myself.

    Tilda Swinton has been consistently mentioned throughout her career as "giving a strong performance". She makes acting look so easy.

  8. Ye, they called it "The Ghost Writer" over here...didn't want any Americans complianing the film wasn't spooky enough...although it put the hairs on the back of my neck standing up in a couple places. Jus tsaw it again recently and it holds up well. Apparently the original novel was inspired by Tony Blair...personally I saw no parallels whatsoever. ;-) Thank goodness we don't live in a world like that!

    I love the part where the old character actor, Eli Wallach, playing a long-time resident of that desolate beach area, says to Ewan McGregor's scribe character. "That Tony Blair guy (I mean Andrew Lang) seemed like a nice guy. Why'd he go and get messed up with that idiot in the White House?" (I liked to ask the same of the 63 million who voted to re-elect Bush, but that's another "movie", as they say.)

    I can't tell Milan from Turin myself AA. I almost put "The Italian Job" on a recent blog in Milan until I saw the movie in the nick of time and remembered it was the toehr place. I wonder if they ever got that annoying flooding problem in Venice cleared up? Perhaps the US Army Corps of Engineers could spare some units from the New Orleans project.

    Eleven years is a long time. It's amazing how long it takes an indepenent film to get "greenlighted" for production. Some real classics from the past like "Bonnie and Clyde" nearly didn't get made. And how many actors would stick to a project like that and learn a new language?

    I could see Tilda Swinton as a "Avenger", and she has a cool name. (Although the lousy 1997 remake with Ralph Finnes and Uma Thurman put paid to that concept I'm afraid.)

    Yes, AA, I seem to have developed for myself an unconcious theme here of northern Italian connection to my latest film blogs. And by pure chance I may have another film I want to blog about currently on order from the library set in Venice, so it will be a complete trilogy of British talents cutting loose in their old "Grand Tour" playgrounds. (But, no, its not "Carry On Buresconi".)

    "I am Love" is definately a moody and offbeat film. Glad I could interest you on this one, AA.

  9. Yes, I forgot about her and Clooney in "Burn After Reading", a movie I strongly suspect has more than a grain of truth to it about the real state of the American intelligence community.

    I know what you mean about wanting to avoid the blockbuster Hollywood genre--movies that pull in crowds fast and furious with big ad campaigns tend to be formulaic. And this is especially true of sequels to popular films.

    I read the Narnia stories to my grand daughter and am intrigued by CS Lewis more adult fiction so Iwanted to see what the film version of "The Lion , The Watch and The Wardrobe" would be like. Suffice to say i can't Imagine anyone but Tilda Swinton in the part of the White Witch. She quite steals her scenes, which i thin kis the only way to play that part.

    And, yes the real test of an actor sometimes is making difficult acting look as natural as breathing---when it most certainly isn't for most mortals.