Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I Am Like

“I Am Love” is an Italian-made movie starring Tilda Swinton, an English actor who plays a Russian émigré who speaks Italian. I am not sure if her Italian has a Russian accent, but it probably doesn’t matter.  Swinton is a formidable presence in any movie.  She appears to be a tall woman but she is thin, but not too thin. Actually, all the actors in this movie are thin- oh, I forgot, it was made in Italy where people are still of what-used-to-be-considered a normal size in the US.  Today, however, if a person is of normal size, we in the US are obliged to say something like "she  looks like a drug addict."  But I digress.  I think Swinton is attractive in a very idiosyncratic way, except when she smiles.  Her teeth require some major intervention.  For a summary of the plot of the film, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Am_Love_(film) .

“I Am Love” has received rave reviews from those supposedly in the know.  Many have said that it has great cinematography.  I cannot confirm that since I saw in a movie theater designed some time ago.  It had no stadium seating and only a center aisle.  As a result, I viewed the movie off angle and l had to look up to see the screen.  This effectively washed out all of the color from the movie.  So while there are views of the Italian landscape, they appeared dull and lifeless.  The sound system was also archaic.  The score was by the preeminent American composer John Adams, and the music was a perfect compliment to the plot, but it sounded like listening to a symphony through a telephone. Finally, the theater had the smell of a room that has been bathed in air-conditioning for way too long and the mold was flourishing.
Much of the movie takes place inside the mansion owned by Swinton’s movie husband.  It was large and very interesting.  It appeared to have been designed under the influence of art deco.  It had dark wooden walls that were warm and understated.  The mansion plays an important part in setting the atmosphere for the movie.  There were long walks for the hired help while serving dinner to the wealthy members of the family. 
If you read the summary of the plot, you will see that not a lot happens.  It’s about relationships that change over time for reasons that the screenwriter does not share with us.  I was never quite clear what motivated Swinton’s character to have the affair.  Was it boredom? Was it that she had emigrated and had lived long enough in Italy that she no longer needed her marriage?  But for me, I don’t need to understand all of the reasons that people do as they do, at least in films, if I am moved by what is presented.  In this case, I was not particularly moved, so a bit more background would have helped.  Also, after her son tripped and fell into the pool, Swinton’s character stood motionless for a few seconds, which actually seemed quite long in such a desperate situation.  I couldn’t tell if it was indifference or bad directing or bad editing.

There is one scene where Swinton is topless with her fictional paramour. It was crudely filmed and her breasts looked oddly bruised.  I am all for realism, but it was more than I really needed to see.

In spite of the negative tone of this review, I liked the film.  It’s a movie that suits European sensibilities so well (at least as I perceive them). The movie contains a slice of life about real relationships where motives are not always clear and dynamics are not always understandable.  It had no guns, no killing, no aliens, no giant robots, limited foul language, and no unnaturally loud music.  It also had subtitles which, of course, had to be read.  No wonder it hasn’t done well at the US box office.  

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