It's the day of revenge for Luca Guadagnino. Often overlooked in Italy, considered too international and "bourgeois", he's now enjoying the success following his four Oscar nominations, including that for Best Film. We are at the Hotel de Russie in Rome where, along with his two actors Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer, the director his meeting the press upon the Italian release of Call Me by Your Name. The perspective around the filmmaker is totally changed. His sensual and abstract vision, largely philosophical and certainly not banal, conquered the hearts of prestige names such as Pedro Almodovar and Paul Thomas Anderson, who consider the film among this year's best. This story of young desire blossoming during a long summer between the 17-year-old Elio and a young American researcher has deeply touched the US audiences already.
However, despite what it looks like, Call Me by Your Name is partly an Italian film, besides being American and French, produced with the contribution of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage. The social networks commented on this issue, sometimes with polemic tones, while newspaper Il tempo dared to use this first-page title: "After immigrants and gipsies, Italy goes towards the Oscar with the gays." Small local controversies, but the meeting with the 46-year-old director is relaxed and pleasant, with the actors who keep on sharing their compliments and enthusiasm for the roles they've been offered. Among the group, editor Walter Fasano as well, who is also co-scripwriter with James Ivory. In the meantime, Guadagnino wrapped the remake of Suspiria ("but it's not properly a remake, it's a different and darker film") and is working on Rio starring Jake Gyllenhall, Michelle Williams, and Benedict Cumberbatch.
How do you feel about the nomination for Best Film? It was since Benigni's Life Is Beautiful that an Italian film didn't achieve this.
It's strange and beautiful. Luckily I'm already working on another film so I can see things more in perspective. Moreover, I don't use Facebook nor Twitter, so I'm out of that media free-for-all.
You got involved in this project gradually, and almost by chance. Can you tell us how did it go?
The American producers got André Aciman's novel rights. The story takes place in Italy, in Liguria, so they asked me for a consultation. At the time - it was 2009 - I was working on I Am Love and I was based in Bordighera. Over time we thought of many directors: Gabriele Muccino, Sam Taylor-Johnson, Ivory himself. Then, after nine years, it looked natural to me to do it myself, and with a limited budget nonetheless.
How did you choose the two actors?
I saw Timothée Chalamet in the series Homeland and in Interstellar. When I first met him, thanks to his agent who is the same of Tilda Swinton, I immediately saw Elio in him. As for Armie Hammer, I especially loved him in The Social Network.
What about the journey, rich in awards and recognitions, that took the film to gain four nominations? Did you expect such a triumph?
It's been a long journey. The history of this film started last year at Sundance. Walter Fasano and I were sure we made a good film, but we didn't expect such warm reactions. We made the film mainly because it was a pleasure for us to work on it, in the name of a cinema that I love and of a unique corner of Italy like the countryside around Crema.
Do you feel isolated within the Italian cinema system, an outsider as someone defines you?
I have many friends among the Italian filmmakers, the picture that Gabriele Muccino posted on Twitter is a proof of it. In order to shape my vision, I've always looked at cinema in a transversal way. I've been mainly influenced by the Nouvelle Vagues, those movements that revolutionize cinema all over the world. So, many filmmakers are friends, and some of them are Italian too. At the Golden Globes Christopher Nolan came to me and told me something really nice: that he was impressed by the way we staged the 1980s in the film.
The film is also a coming-of-age story: it tells of the discovery of sexuality and love by a young man, who is very sensitive and well educated.
This film has something, I receive many letters from different kinds of people, men and women, young and old, who tell me that Call Me by Your Name transformed them, helped them solve some emotional issues. I think it's a film about empathy, on the ability of looking at ourselves through the gaze of the other, which is something we are very much in need in this contemporary times, so angry and fractured.
You grew up in Palermo. What did you take from this city?
Subconscious doesn't lie, and our past pierces through us. From Palermo, which is a sensual and violent place, I've learnt what sensuality means.
If you had to shoot Call Me by Your Name with Italian actors, who would you have chosen?
I'm unimaginative. The characters in the film are American, so I can't think of Italian actors playing their parts. However, there are some extraordinary Italian actors in the film, like Elena Bucci and Marco Sgrosso.
Is it true that you're thinking of a sequel?
I've developed a great passion for these characters. When I was in Berlin, watching the film with the audience, I had the feeling that their lives, in their earthly simplicity, can really tell something about us. Maybe I could keep on telling their story following the lesson of Truffaut and of a character like Antoine Doinel.