With an affectionate nod to Bernardo Bertolucci and Eric Rohmer, Luca Guadagnino has made the year’s best love story: “Call Me By Your Name.” The same sex romance starring NYFCC Best Actor winner Timothée Chalamet (a breakout revelation) and Armie Hammer (who’s seductively feline) leads to something far more sublime than summer love. And it’s a movie in which desire and liberation blossom in the inviting and beautiful landscape of Northern Italy.
For Walter Fasano (Guadagnino’s go-to editor for 21 years), this dance of desire between 17-year-old Elio (Chalamet) and 24-year-old Oliver (Hammer) provided both an inner and outer poetry. “Our main intention was to let characters and the landscape breathe and not overwhelm with the editing,” he said. “At the same time, we wanted to have a control of the style and music editing for the ins and outs of shots because we did not want our personal taste to look self-indulgent.”
Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Based on the acclaimed novel by André Aciman and adapted by James Ivory and Guadagnino, “Call Me By Your Name” was shot near the director’s home in Crema, less than an hour from Milan, principally in a 17th century villa. Fasano said the close proximity for Guadagnino enhanced the relaxed, improvisational atmosphere of the production (shot on 35mm by cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom).
A Dual Rite of Passage
Finding the right tempo, though, became its own rhythmic dance: When to hold on the performance or when to cut. “To stay in the shot and not to cut, cut, cut may give the impression of being correct in the progression of the story and never be boring,” Fasano said. “Well, sometimes if you cut, cut, cut, you can give the impression that something is wrong and maybe creating some kind of tension that can get boring.”
The film was shot in continuity, which allowed us to witness the onscreen maturity of both protagonist and actor. The experience became a dual rite of passage. “The main lesson tells us in a very delicate way that you should follow who you are,” Fasano said. “And Timothée embodies this perfectly. The other day, I saw him at one of the premieres, and already, at 21, he’s another person. And so the [performance] really did grab that special moment of growing up in life and in front of the camera.”
Keeping the Glass of Water Scene
The editor’s favorite scene almost didn’t made the cut when one of the producers insisted that it was inconsequential. “They’re on their bikes and they go inside a courtyard where there is an image of Mussolini and a woman is cleaning some vegetables,” Fasano said. “And they ask for some water. And then they go back on their bikes, but that long shot when you can see them disappear into the distance, you start feeling that sun on the skin experience.”
Photo by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
“And so at the end of this hike, before they get to the place where they first kiss, Ravel’s music [“Une Barque sur L’Ocean”] is played, and they’re suddenly interrupted. It’s an abrupt cut that ends a moment of quiet, but at the same time it reminds you of the way you remember things where your recollection could stop immediately.”
The Importance of Bach
Music plays an important part of the movie. Along with two original songs by Sufijan Stevens (“Mystery of Love” and “Visions of Gideon”) and the inclusion of the Psychedelic Furs’ “Love My Way,” there are various classical pieces, including the aforementioned Ravel. However, the most important was Bach’s “Capriccio on the Departure of his Beloved Brother,” which Elio plays on guitar and piano.
But the way Elio teasingly alters the arrangement brings him closer to Oliver. It’s a form of foreplay yet also conveys control. “So he plays the guitar outside and then he goes to the piano,” said Fasano. “It’s the spark of an idea and he tells Oliver to follow him. Then there is this long shot without a camera move that is incredibly good. The movie is full of these subtle games and paths.”
The Peach Scene
The infamous peach scene from the novel, in which Elio masturbates with the hallowed out fruit and Oliver partakes of it, got changed in the movie. “Luca was very good at creating the perfect look and feel with our wonderful cinematographer, Sayombhu, and Timothée did the rest,” the editor said.
“It was just a couple of takes, timing was perfect, everything was very delicate, and we just put things together, being very attentive and the radio playing in the background. So, in a way, it was easy.”
Then Oliver entered and the tension takes a comical turn when he makes fun of Elio. “It’s the fear of being discovered and the fear of the separation, because, in a couple of days Oliver is running away,” added Fasano. “And the boldness of Oliver wanting to drink the juice is stopped by this incredible outcome. Again, they gave me everything and I just needed to put it together.”
A Father’s Speech
Another important scene involved the loving support provided by Elio’s father (brilliantly played by Michael Stuhlbarg) after a moment of heartbreak. In an unforgettable monologue, Mr. Perlman confesses envy for his son’s passion and implores him to follow his desire, despite the pain, and not shut himself off from emotional depth.
“It comes from the novel, and then it’s Michael’s magic after Luca put him at the most comfortable position,” Fusano said. “Then Luca said to me the same thing he tells his barber: ‘Please don’t cut too much. I just want to see a maximum of four cuts. But let the performance speak. I think Michael did it in three takes on three different levels of getting emotional. There was a moment in one cut where there was piano playing underneath, but we decided that silence was the best thing.”