Oscarbait 2010: Io Son Amore (I Am Love)

I suppose the first thing that really jumps out about I Am Love are the old fashioned titles - everything about them, from the layout to the font, recalls an older, classier era in film.

I've struggled to think of how to describe I Am Love to someone who knows nothing about it without sounding like a pretentious bore, but I think I've found a suitable (though slightly misleading) way of framing it. Imagine if The Godfather were not about the Corleones, but about Kay (Diane Keaton's hapless, voiceless interloper). Kay appears in the story when it is convenient to Michael for her to do so; it's not until the third movie that we are given any hint of an inner life.

So there we have I Am Love: feminist reimagining of the Godfather, minus violence and plus food porn, by which I mean there is lots of food and plenty of nudity. Set in the backdrop of unspeakable wealth and power, the movie tells the story of the two who don't really belong in the family; their attempts to create something apart nearly destroys their whole world. The beauty of the movie is that in the end, we see that no one belongs in this particularly family, at least not in the way it's been constructed from the top-down, except for the pater familias.

I Am Love is a particularly beautiful movie: shots of Antonio's food seduce us just as completely as it seduces everyone in the film. Lust is a very real thing. Happily, the movie takes the view that trivializing it as a sin does not make it go away. In fact, trivializing it transforms it into an indestructible beast, grotesque and unnatural, impossible to remove from sight. Overcoming it sometimes can seem…almost transactional, a necessary deal made to keep various wheels turning, and in some cases, just to keep living.

Tilda Swinton, so radiant for so much of the movie, by the end is the Swinton we all know and fear - a pale strawberry husk with unmissable black orbs punctuating her face. In that antepenultimate scene, she is the White Witch, she is Orlando, she is Emma, she is Kitesh. She is all she has ever been, and unmistakably herself. In the penultimate scene she is…like a rat, undecided about leaving the sinking ship. But in the final scene, she is Cassandra reborn and recognized. She is right in practically every way. I’m not convinced that earns the silly triumph in the final scene, but goddamn it, I’m rooting for her anyway. She is honest. She is beautiful. And she is real.

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