Over two decades ago, Emma left Russia to follow Tancredi Recchi, the man who had proposed to her. Now a member of a powerful industrial Milanese family, she is the respected mother of three. But Emma, although not unhappy, feels confusedly unfulfilled. One day Antonio, a talented chef and her son's friend and partner, makes her senses kindle. It does not take long before she embarks on a passionate affair with the sensuous young man. Written by
This is an impeccably designed melodrama in the classic Italian and Hollywood sense. It pays homage to Visconti, Sirk etc. in the same (but different) way that Almodovar pays homage to them (over and over again). But for a film that takes itself utterly seriously, it really has absolutely nothing to say. It glides through its themes and events without the least interest in developing any of them, all the director is interested in is the aesthetic and dramatic effect that they might offer. In fact, it is all effect. The dialogue is quite often stilted, perhaps in the manner that the dialogue can often see stilted in the classic films that he is trying to emulate, but when they're in London (for a meeting in the city...cue the Gherkin...)...the dialogue isn't stilted, it's incomprehensible...
What he lacks in substance, he makes up for in style, the World of Interiors set design is impeccable, and indeed is the star of the film, as is the wardrobe, all that's missing is the catwalk. But the camera work and editing is incoherent and gratuitous and works against the film at all times. He is using the visual language of an artist video piece to tell the story of lush soap opera...Guadagnino really throws everything he can at the spectator in order to reinvent the genre, but the result is clumsy and often annoying.
That said, this is at least a brave albeit flawed attempt at film-making, the actors look the part, which is all they're expected to do, and mostly pull off the clumsy dialogue, and there are some genuinely moving moments, if only visually. The music heightens the drama to such a pitch that sometimes you're not sure whether to laugh or explode. What could have been a great film was in the end, an often frustrating but nevertheless intense cinematic experience.
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