Saturday, 10 July 2010

The Italian movie I am Love is all show and no substance, and why making a melodrama is easier than writing a book


The other night my partner Spanner and I went to the cinema. We saw the Italian flick I am Love (lo sono l'amore), which came recommended by my cinephile mother. She described it as "beautiful to look at" and paying attention to every little detail.

And it was gorgeous. I was mesmerised from start to finish by the magnificence of it all. The locations of Milan and San Remo are stunning, and afterwards I wanted to rush from the cinema and hail a plane to Italy.

Another bonus was Tilda Swinton in the lead role. She's not your bog-standard beauty a la Naomi Watts, but has a luminosity, how do you say it - je ne sais quois - to her being. She is interesting to look at. Of course, the camera takes advantage of this and spends a huge amount of time focussed on her perfect skin and elegant, cream-textured features.

But what about the plot? I am Love is melodrama at its most hysterical and, I think, the director takes the easy way out at the end.

The story revolves around a disgustingly wealthy Italian family, whose patriarch bequeaths the family's textile business to his son and grandson. As the saga around the business unfolds, Tilda Swinton, who plays the son's wife, embarks on an affair with her son's friend, a chef.

The story builds slowly to a dramatic climax, with Tilda Swinton's character ultimately finding her true self.

What gets me is the lack of deep and meaningful dialogue. I know, I know. A director paints the scene for the audience. But so much is left unexplained.

And the big love scene is so cliched it's almost embarrassing. A full-on orchestra accompanies the wife and chef as a soft-focus camera pans over the couple making furious love in a sunny meadow (the grass looked scratchy to me - and I was worried about Tilda getting sunburnt and stung). Their lovemaking is intercut with shots of bees and creepy bugs crawling in and out of flowers. It's pretty funny.

My point is that you couldn't get away with this in a novel. Script writing for the cinema allows the writer to take way more liberties than an author. If it looks good on the screen, you'll forgive the writer and director for other flaws in the story.

And better still if it's Italian. Italians get away with blue murder, just because they're Italian. I mean, only the Italians would have the audicity to call a film I am Love. After all, they reckon they invented 'amore'.
A more appropriate title might be I am Wank. Beautiful to look at but lacking in substance.

2 comments:

jenn j mcleod said...

Oooh! Harsh words. It's Italian. Who cares!! LOL. Seriously, I know what you mean. Someone told me recently i write like a screenplay. I think because i lack the emotional tension and scene setting. Interestingly I often 'cast' my characters from recognised actors when I'm plotting. Thx for the movie tip.

Shayne said...

Jenn,
Still see it. It's a feast for the senses, but there are just some bits that are plain silly - and I don't think an Australian director would get away with them.

Shayne