Director Luca Guadagnino had become so obsessed with the music of John Adams that he couldn’t imagine his family saga “I Am Love” without the composer’s pulsating minimalism. So naturally he was very nervous when it came time to ask Adams, whom he had never met, for permission to use his work on the epic yet intimate movie he had struggled so hard to complete within what he calls the “incredibly frustrating” labyrinth of Italian film finance.
“We wrote, rehearsed and shot with Adams’ music,” says the Rome-based helmer. “So we had to talk to the guy, but were afraid that we couldn’t afford him or he wouldn’t allow us to use it. Tilda (Swinton, who stars in ‘Love’) wrote him a beautiful letter. Adams wrote back in a minute and said to go ahead. So we did, but after eight months we were nervous again because we had packed the movie with his music.”
“When Adams was in London for the opening of his opera ‘Dr. Atomic’ we showed him the entire film with his music in the score,” says Guadagnino. “At the end, he turned to me and Tilda and said, ‘This is great, I want to be part of it.’?” The helmer breathed a sigh of relief and was able to include 39 minutes of Adams’ music in the soundtrack of “Love,” relying on music supervisor Jen Moss to secure the rights “for the amount of money we could afford.”
The amount couldn’t have been much, as the film’s entire budget, about e4 million ($5 million), per Guadagnino, was paltry for a production of its sweep.The crew filmed for seven weeks, partly in Milan, “where it’s expensive to shoot, but we were committed to not stepping back from what we wanted to achieve.”
The principled Guadagnino harks back to an older filmmaking tradition. He shoots only on 35mm and eschews the digital intermediate technology that is conquering film post-production. “We never processed in DI; that can kill the nuances of your movie,” he says. “We worked at Technicolor in Rome with old-fashioned film tools, filters and chemicals. DI is a lazy muscle; producers are lazy.”
He encourages intense teamwork among his crew, “melding rather than juxtaposing” all the departments. In the case of “Love,” it started with the writing — editor Walter Fasano is also credited as a screenwriter — and extended to the close collaboration between d.p. Yorick Le Saux and production designer Francesca Di Mottola to “exploit the possibilities of available light,” says Guadagnino.
Yet, for all his traditionalism, the helmer didn’t balk at that most contemporary of fund-raising methods: product placement. “It was subtle,” he’s quick to add. Damiani loaned real jewelry (and bodyguards) to the production, conferring authenticity to the tale of Italy’s haute bourgeoisie struggling to preserve the fortune it built under fascism as it deals with the financial pressures of the new century.
Bookings & Signings
Production designers Alison Stadler (“United States of Tara”), Gary Matteson (“Pulse”) and Debra Echard (“Homeland Security”) signed with Dattner Dispoto. D.p. Michael Price (“Ugly Betty”) and costume designer Tish Monaghan (“The Twilight Saga: Eclipse”) signed with Innovative Artists.
Sheldon Prosnit bookings: d.p.’s Eric Gautier on Walter Salles’ “On the Road,” Benoit Delhomme on Lone Scherfig’s “One Day,” Frankie Demarco on J.C. Chandor’s “Margin Call,” Yaron Orbach on Jesse Peretz’s “My Idiot Brother, Michael Simmonds on Tod Williams’ “Paranormal Activity 2,” Bradford Young on Sebastian Silva’s “Second Child,” Eduardo Martinez Solares on Dean Wright’s “Cristiada,” Michael McDonough on Vera Farmiga’s “Higher Ground,” Manuel Claro on Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia,” David Wagreich on USA’s “In Plain Sight” and Jonathan Taylor as 2nd unit director and d.p. on Joe Johnston’s “Captain America: The First Avenger.”
Sheldon Prosnit also booked production designers Mark White on Joe Nussbaum’s “Prom,” Inbal Weinberg on Jesse Peretz’s “My Idiot Brother,” Michael Grasley on Sam Levinson’s “Devil In My Shoes,” Marc Fisichella on Daniel Adams “The Big Valley,” Sal Parra on Dean Wright’s “Cristiada” and Michael Whetstone on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm”; music supervisor Lynn Fainchtein on Walter Salles’ “On The Road”; and first AD Todd Amateau on Will Gluck’s “Friend’s With Benefits”
For more Bookings & Signings and to read previous columns, visit Variety.com/Caranicas