one of the most gorgeous films ive seen in recent years is practically unknown on this side of the world and i wonder why. tilda swinton stars in I Am Love (2009), a sweeping melodrama directed by luca guadagnino, production design by francesca balestra di mottola, set decoration by monica sironi, costume design by antonella cannarozzi, cinematography by yorick le saux and features previously produced music by john adams. this film is just exquisite, from the opening titles that evoked classical italian cinema to the magnificent modernist interiors of villa necchi and the impeccable tailored costumes by fendi (sylvia venturini fendi is an associate producer) and jil sander (with raf simons) plus the elegant plating and emotion of carlo cracco’s culinary masterpieces.
the deliciously stylish film, set in milan in the year 2000, follows a haute bourgeoisie family through changing times and fortunes, and its disruption by the force of passion. the title is taken from a line from the aria La mamma morta, which is explored in the film philadelphia (starring tom hanks and denzel washington), a scene of which emma is watching while in bed with her husband, during the film. wiki source
the detail that went into the film is beyond words. it was a beautiful showcase of family, tradition and the unmaking of it. every frame of this film is a masterpiece and every scene just breathtaking. i love the real time take on the opening sequence where the whole family arrives and sits for lunch while swinton, gorgeous in a burgundy dress, orchestrates the household serving the perfect meal from her seat.
the opening titles had me at hello. it is reminiscent of many old films by visconti, hitchcock and the like
much of the film was set at the villa necchi campiglio in milan, which is a character in itself. the interiors, reckoned the producers, were a wonderful mix of home, museum and prison. i marveled that the director highlighted the house by showing us not just the main rooms of the villa but also its kitchen, staircases, sitting rooms, entryways and even the househelp’s private quarters.
“I wrote a script that called for a cube of marble with a big staircase and sharp surfaces,” Guadagnino says. “I was banging my head trying to find a home that suggested great wealth but also a restrained sensibility.” After searching for years, he saw Villa Necchi in a book and immediately knew that it was the one. “It shows the obsession with perfection and details that the Milanese bourgeoisie have,” he says. “Old money always comes with great charm. Their real success is making others believe that money doesn’t exist — and luxury, as most people perceive it, doesn’t really exist in this house. It’s very severe, and feels almost unmovable, like a piece of rock.” source
this was the creation of italian architect and designer piero portaluppi and was built between 1932 to 1935 as a showpiece of italian rationalist and fascist architecture, a fusion of neo-classicism and streamlined modernism. the villa was a far cry from the ornate palazzos in the area and boasted a tennis court, a garage and one of milan’s first heated swimming pool. it was inhabited by producers of cast iron and enameled sewing machines, gigina and nedda necchi (coincidentally rhymes with the film’s recchi family), and gigina’s husband, angelo campiglio, who gave lavish parties for royalty and the elite until the fascist republican party held office in the place and the owners had to move out into the countryside in 1943.
the design is rationalist and featured grand proportions, stark lines and this german silver sliding door
the house boasts of exquisite marble, grand ceilings and lots of chandeliers
in 2008 the villa was opened to the public and became a museum. when gigina died in 2001, short of a year to be a centenarian, the house was bequeathed to italy’s national trust for restoring and preserving historical buildings.
much was given attention to the food served in the film. these creations from carlo cracco of ristorante cracco in milan served to fuel the story forward and act as devices and anchors in the film. never had food been shot like this and looked so sexy! the actor, edoardo gabbriellini, worked with chef cracco himself for a month to learn the intricacies and subtleties of creating these dishes and know how to handle knives and kitchen equipment.
chef carlo, in an interview at the sundance film festival, explains,
“I tried to get into the characters to best understand what was inside them and what their aspirations were. I wondered: what do these people want? What moves them? Actually that is the same thing that I do every time a customer takes a seat in my restaurant. I try to understand his psychology and his spirit, to offer the dish and experience that he may crave at that very moment. Cooking is above all communication, because it is where the magic of interchange may take place that ties people together and unites them with this very fine and magical thread that is food. In some cases, it brings them closer.” source
watch this seduction on eating prawns with ratatouille in sweet and sour sauce served for emma recchi
i have already talked in length about the film’s design but i have not even delved into the fashion and music of I Am Love. the film was written and edited around the score of john adams so that is something to look forward to. do take note no part of the score was composed for the film, they were all existing material. the director became such a fan of adams and even invited co-producer swinton to catch a concert performance of adams. he was asked to produce original material for the film but declined to due to conflicts in schedule. taray lang!
here’s the official trailer of the film, largely showcasing the music of john adams
of course the film is rooted on the virtuoso performance of tilda swinton. her emotional journey takes you to new heights as her alabaster skin glow and dim with each scene. the beauty of this film and its elements have clearly exhausted my capabilities to express myself clearly and eloquently. you get the picture now go watch it. i am love was nominated for at the 68th academy award for best foreign language film and best costume design. it lost to denmark’s in a better world and to colleen atwood for her costume work in alice in wonderland.