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I Am Love

film_IamloveTildaSwinton1In her long, illustrious career in independent film, Tilda Swinton's roles have ranged from the sublime (Orlando) to the ridiculous (Female Perversions). There are elements of both in her new film, I Am Love, a langorous Italian family drama she also co-produced; gorgeous location shooting in Milan and the San Remo countryside, and rapturous depictions of food, border on sublimity, but the overheated melodrama of the storytelling finally skews the film in the other direction. Co-scripted and directed by Luca Guadagnino, the film stars Swinton as Emma Recchi, a Russian-born wife in a wealthy Milanese family, whose businessman husband, Tancredi (Pippo Delbono) is about to inherit the family textile manufacturing business from his own elderly father. Their eldest son is out of the house, their daughter, away at school in the UK, is in love with another woman, and their younger son, Edo (Flavio Parenti), plans to open a restaurant with his friend, Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini), a talented chef. The elegant Emma spends most of her time wandering around the vast mausoleum of her empty nest, and buddying up to the housekeeper, head of the enormous army of Recchi family servants—until her inner hunger is unleashed in an intoxicating affair with Antonio. Director Guadagnino's sensory lushness adds occasional sly notes of magic realism—like Emma's orgasmic response to the first meal prepared for her by Antonio, infused with his unspoken feeling for her. And it's nice that the curtain is drawn on their first love scene after the initial kiss; what we see is Emma's reaction later, at home, giggling and gasping in astonishment at what she's done, what she's allowed herself to feel. But a protracted love scene later in the sun-dappled hills above San Remo is cross-cut with so many close-up shots of bees pollinating wildflowers, you hope the lovers remembered to bring a can of Off. Lip service is paid to the waning of old family values and traditions in favor of the new, post-Millennium trend toward greed and expedience. But ultimately, as the story drifts into tragedy, the film becomes as entombed in its own self-seriousness as Emma is inside the stifling Recchi family mansion. Emma's liberation isn't a matter of much urgency to the viewer, and what she goes through to achieve it never quite registers, symbolically or emotionally. (R) 120 minutes. In Italian with English subtitles. ★★1/2 | LJ Watch film trailer >>>

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