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Luca Guadagnino Shares How His ‘Call Me by Your Name’ Crew Created ’80s Love Story Look

Sony Pictures Classics’ “Call Me by Your Name” is the story of first love set in 1983, with much of it taking place at a house in Crema, Italy. Director Luca Guadagnino said he wanted the film “to be specific, not a typical ‘Mediterranean movie,’ and not a modern take on the look of the 1980s.” He saluted the behind-the-camera team for their expert work, saying, “We always strived for an understated precision. The movie may seem natural, but it took a lot of work to construct this period in time, and the emotional journey … wouldn’t have happened without these people.”

Cinematography: Sayombhu Mukdeeprom

We decided to shoot in May, but the second we started shooting, it was rainfall, rainfall, rainfall. So the 30-day schedule became 32 days, and the lighting became all artificial. It was cherry-pickers all over the place, but it’s a testament to Sayombhu’s work that people think it’s natural lighting. The light was everywhere but not direct; Sayombhu always bounced light against someplace, and then it returns to the frame; this is how the light became soft. It was laborious, but the result is beautiful.

Production design: Samuel Deshors; Art direction: Roberta Federico; Set decoration: Violante Visconti di Modrone, Muriel Chinal, Sandro Piccarozzi

I live in the area of Crema and knew the house. We rented it, but it was unlived in. The task was to make it alive, to bring in the personalities of the three members of the Perlman family, to make the house about Americans in Italy in 1983. The level of detail was important. Even the books in the background are accurate, with nothing newer than 1982. Violante Visconti di Modrone brought a lot of furniture from her own home. And in public places, like the squares, we created signs of the times. The movie was set in July 1983, and there had been a big election in May 1983, so there were some faded political billboards.  They also re-created a newsstand with magazines of that time. We wanted the movie to look like it was actually shot in 1983. Violante really nailed that precisely. Another part of the design that’s important is the garden. The house’s real garden was nothing, zero. But in the book, it is important. We hired a landscape designer and created this orchard, and suddenly the movie became filled with the ripeness of summer.

Costume design: Giulia Piersanti

I love her. After I directed “I Am Love,” I worried that I would be considered a “director of beauty.” That movie was reconstructing a period and a class with wealth and refinement; I wanted it to be real, almost like a documentary, but it comes across as “beautiful.” So for my film “A Bigger Splash,” I hired Giulia, who created a precise look. For “Call Me by Your Name,” we agreed that It had to be the 1980s, but not our modern notion of the ’80s with big hair and padded shoulders. Giulia made a thorough investigation, and she captured the images of the times. This is a movie about desire, being able to free yourself. Oliver’s clothes change as he’s more able to free himself; since he’s American, his wardrobe is from America too. But a lot of the costume pieces were made from scratch. We were striving for a balance of period and realism.

Editing: Walter Fasano

I’ve known him since 1993; he has edited all the films I’ve directed, and many that I have produced. We wanted a balance between an invisible flow and an original rhythm. In the experience of love, there is always a hope and frustration, and finally it’s a full-blown romance. Walter was looking for that stop-and-go emotional drive. You can have a very long sequence, and then you have a sudden cut and then you start again. One other example of Walter’s great work is when Mr. Perlman [Michael Stuhlbarg] and Oliver [Armie Hammer] talk. That was a challenge, to take a discussion about etymology and make it fun for an audience. Walter made it engaging, and it is a brisk scene where they ping-pong from one to the other and then the listener, Elio [Timothée Chalamet].

Songs “Mystery of Love” and “Visions of Gideon”: Sufjan Stevens

I wanted a narrator, an omniscient character who could accompany the audience emotionally and wrap things together. And then I thought instead maybe a musical artist from today could convey the substance of the film instead of a narrator. I thought of Sufjan. His voice communicates poetry, and his lyrics are very tough. Sufjan is a man of few words, and he always says no to writing for films. But I spoke with him, he read the book and the script and I never heard back. Then I suddenly received an email saying, “I made you two songs.” The movie, its meaning and texture, they were all there. We got these before we started filming, and the songs were a source of inspiration during shooting. The way Sufjan contributed was significant. In the closing shot, Timothée was listening to “Visions of Gideon” in a little earpiece in his ear.

Casting: Stella Savino

Stella was also line producer. For the role of Marzia, it was Stella’s idea to cast Esther Garrel, who comes from a great family of filmmakers. And casting the role of the maid, Mafalda, that’s another Stella touch. We were scouting in the middle of the countryside and there was a woman on a bicycle. Stella said, “Wait, I need to talk with you!” The woman’s name is Vanda Capriolo. She had never acted before, and she was perfection.

Graphics: Chen Li

Chen Li is a graphic designer who made the titles. I wanted to give the audience an immersion in the world of this family. For the opening credits, we took Xerox images of statues and placed them with items on the desk of Professor Perlman — the pens, the typewriter, the glue. So you see images of the statues with the details of his everyday life, along with the credits. I didn’t want the “indie cool” typeface. I found this Chinese woman who lives in Milan. The titles are handwritten, so they’re like an invitation to the audience.

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