Vulture released the I Am Love trailer a few months ago with the following tease:
"There's a new trailer for I Am Love, in which Tilda Swinton plays a woman living in Milan who — well, the trailer for the thriller foregoes the usual exposition and just shows us frame after frame of stuff happening to Swinton in Italy (sex, betrayal, secrets, food, possibly international politics) along with critic quotes like, "See it by any means possible," which, by the time it appeared on the screen, was a completely unnecessary command. We have no idea what's going on here — and we can't remember the last time we could say that in this age of trailers that explain the entire movie. With all the food and scenery, this looks like the smart man's (or woman's) Eat, Pray, Love. We're there."
SO THERE! (I actually wish that the title was always written in the all caps "I AM LOVE", like SWINTON, to match those gorgeous text blocks denoting the passing of time throughout the film. "MILANO"; "QUATTRO GIORNI DOPO"; "LA PROSSIMA PRIMAVERA!", per esempio. Something to match John Adam's score of crescendos.)
Then, to boot, John offered his own tease after seeing this film over a year ago at Cannes and has been screaming in my ear 'SARAH YOU HAVE TO SEE SWINTON'S NEW ITALIAN FILM YOU'LL LOVE IT ITS SO GORGEOUS AND ABOUT FOOD AND TRAVEL AND SEX AND ITS JUST SO GREAT!!!!' several times a day since, thus clearly I was curious. Clearly. Well, I finally made it to BAM last night, two whole weeks afters its release date due to an annoyingly full schedule that I won't bore you with at this time. And a treat it was. I Am Love is the most enjoyable film I've seen in quite some time, and-- I'm going to be bold here-- a new favorite of mine.
Tilda Swinton is phenomenal in this role, which surprises absolutely no one. She is amazing in everything, especially in Lanvin, and this role was really created around her talent and verve. But the filming itself-- something I don't even usually notice-- drew in our greedy interest. The silver, the carpeting, the fountains, the gilded frames, the food--oh! the food! We were transformed right out of Brooklyn and into Milano, which previously held state as my least favorite Italian city, but I'm now dying to revisit. It was dazzling, this film. All of it.
The story itself followed time with the sweeping photography and classical score. We met a family, fell quickly in love with them, and patiently waited for the story to come to us. It didn't rush into anything, even giving pause to little events like polishing silver and making Russian soup. That soup came back to haunt us, though, snapping the brilliant direction of this young filmmaker into a spotlight. He's good.
Swinton's character is one we haven't seen her in lately. She played the stoic but kind matriarch of a seemingly generous and functional family. They are wealthy, yes, but they treat their help with respect, and they love each other deeply. She remains poised yet natural (like the donkey, remember?) until absolutely necessary to come undone. I loved her relationship with her daughter, and with her housekeeper Ida, didn't you? Without it, we may have hated her structure and her control, but with it, we were generous with what turned into a disastrous decision. It was her acting that convinced us to offer her character grace.
This trick of attributing superhuman characteristics (beauty, poise, supreme control) to a protagonist and then making her vulnerable through love is a literary trick as old as the Greeks. F. Scott Fitzgerald would have loved this little tale of exploding wealth, don't you think? Though perhaps he would have captured our goddess at the end instead of sending her shimmering into the masses. I did love this ending, though. Alas--love is the great equalizer, and it makes the viewer less resentful of a supremely gifted hero.
***If you're interested in reading a review much more well written and slightly less self involved than my own, bounce over to Anthony Lane's review 'Second Helpings' in the New Yorker. Never disappointing.