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Berlinale: ‘Call Me by Your Name’ Was a ‘Universal Effort’

“Call Me by Your Name,” Luca Guadagnino’s coming of age drama that wowed audiences at Sundance, won wide praise from Berlinale journos and film critics following its Panorama Special screening on Monday at the Berlin Film Festival.

Based on the novel by André Aciman, the story chronicles the love affair between Italian-American Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and his father’s new American assistant, Oliver, played by Armie Hammer.

Speaking at a press conference, Guadagnino described the work as a “film for families. I like to think it’s a film for the transmission of knowledge and hope that people of different generations comet to see the film together.”

Hammer, who also stars in Stanley Tucci’s Berlinale competition entry “Final Portrait,” said he could “certainly relate to how Luca was able to execute human desire, craving – this very  human emotion, between these two characters. These are primal emotions of desire that people feel. I hope that’s one thing that will help the film cross boundaries.”

Guadagnino said he sought to keep the sexual situations tame because he envisioned the film as being of the “idyll” genre – “and I don’t see many organs in an idyll. Showing intimacy was the most important thing.”

Discussing his steamy chemistry with Hammer, Chalamet said it had been “a real gift to come out early to Crema,” the Italian city where Guadagnino lives, and spend time with Hammer before shooting began. “It made it possible to show that this wasn’t a fake relationship. We really got to know each other. If we wanted to hang out with another American, it had to be with one another. We watched movies together, listened to music, had espresso in the morning. We were always together.”

Added Hammer: “We did everything we do in the film,” to which Chalamet replied, “Well, not everything.”

Actress Amira Casar said the film, set in the early 1980s, is characterized by a kind of melancholy. “It was the end of an era, and it kind of shows that yes, it was better yesterday.”

Guadagnino added that in the film, “We are witnessing the end of the extraordinary ’70s and the beginning of ’80s and the conformity, the mass thinking that followed. It shows a group of people who were untouched  by that.”

On the role of James Ivory in co-writing the script (with Guadagnino and Walter Fasano), Guadagnino said he had met the famed filmmaker years ago and the two had become friends and wrote the script together at the dining table. Ivory has “a great generosity and curiosity for life – he is one of the most informed and curious persons I know,” Guadagnino added, stressing that the project was “a real labor of love for everyone.”

Chalamet noted that it was wonderful to be able to contrast the story of the film with that of Ivory’s 1987 love story “Maurice,” based on E.M. Forster’s novel.

Producer Peter Spears added that since he had reached out to Aciman about making a film of his novel, “something about this material, its genius, brought everyone two it. The book has been hugely successful and it was the same with the screenplay. Memento in France came on board, then RT Features from Brazil, the director of photography (Sayombhu Mukdeeprom) is from Thailand – there has been a universal effort to make this film and spread its message.

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