During my time at Melbourne International Film Festival, I had the pleasure of meeting Luca Guadagnino, who was here to promote his latest critically acclaimed film, Call Me By Your Name. As Guadagnino had done a Q&A session the night before with film critic Guy Lodge, I wanted to avoid the same questions about the film that he’d been asked before, as we touch on his cinematic influences, his time as a film critic and his upcoming Suspiria remake.
Alex Lines for Film Inquiry: Have you managed to catch any films at the festival so far?
Luca Guadagnino: I saw Final Portrait yesterday.
Was it any good?
Luca Guadagnino: Yeah of course, it was very good.
So what films and filmmakers influenced Call Me By Your Name?
Luca Guadagnino: Well first the most striking element of influence for me was the Italian countyside, more than filmmakers. I tried to be really crossover by what its like being in the Pandino region, the region where the movie is set, in Lombardy. And if you take it from that perspective, then you will have to think of the great films set in that area of Italy, particularly the [Bernando] Bertolucci movies, La Luna, 1900, so I would say Bernando, but if you go backward, you can go into the world of the French directors that were contemporaries of Bertolucci, such as Eric Rohmer or Jacques Rivette, and all these great directors like Rohmer and Bertolucci who were all influenced by the greatest of all – which is Jean Renoir. Then I would say then Jean Renoir, Maurice Pialat, these are all my influences. But all under the great cloth of the Pandino region.
How did you go about casting the film? Was it an audition process?
Luca Guadagnino: No, I don’t do auditions, I always wanted to work with Armie [Hammer], and when Armie said yes, I was so happy about it. And then Timothée Chalament was on board with the project since before I was directing it, when I was just producing it, and he’s such a great personality, a smart kid, it was so important to have him playing Elio. You know like, he’s fantastic.
Was there a particular performance by Armie that drew you to him?
Yeah, I think Lone Ranger is a pretty underrated film.
Luca Guadagnino: It’s a great movie, I like it a lot.
Obviously adapting books to screen can be difficult, because you essentially have to please two different audiences – fans of the book and fans of movies separated from the source material. What is important to you when adapting material like this?
Luca Guadagnino: That I try to, the important thing is to make sure that the essence of the book is restored in its entirety, its not about the literary translation from page to film that interests me, in fact this film is very different in terms of literary of it from the book, but it’s more about what is the book about, and what is at its core that we can try to preserve integrally into this version of the film.
Your usage of music and your soundtrack selections are some of my favourite parts of your films, I love the song used at the ending of I Am Love, when Tilda Swinton decides to leave her family.
Luca Guadagnino: You’re talking about the 2nd Movement of Harmonielehre by John Adams.
Yeah, it was a really great song for that moment in the film. So when you’re making a film, do you have the song choices in your head as you read the script?
Luca Guadagnino: No, it depends, it depends on the moment of the film, many many times I already know what I want before I start shooting.
Yeah, because there’s that moment in Call Me By Your Name when Armie is dancing near the car-
Luca Guadagnino: Ah yes, that song was in the film since the beginning. The song was Love My Way by The Psychedelics, it was in there forever, since I got involved with the film.
One of the most interesting aspects about this film is it’s written by James Ivory. How did he come to be attached to the film?
Luca Guadagnino: We worked together on the script. And the script was supposed to be directed by him, but we didn’t succeed in making it happen, and then I stepped in to make the film, and I took that spec version, worked on it, and made it mine.
What was it about James that made you want to work with him?
Luca Guadagnino: Friendship. We’ve known each other for about 15 years now.
What are some other classic Hollywood figures that are still alive that you’d love to work with in the future?
Luca Guadagnino: Well I love to work with any kind of great artist, not necessarily Hollywood figures. I’m not gonna say the names of the people I’d love to work with, because I’d feel like a stalker. You can find great people around the world, you never know. I met Geoffrey Rush at this festival [MIFF 2017], and I love him, I wish to work with him one day.
Did you used to be a film critic?
Luca Guadagnino: Yes.
How was that, and how long did you do that for?
Luca Guadagnino: I’d been working at university and working with newspapers for around 10-15 years. I was already a filmmaker at that time, as I was making short films when I was very young, with Super 8 cameras. I was really really young.
How did these experiences as a critic influence the way you make film?
Luca Guadagnino: I don’t know. You should ask people who have worked with me, I have tried to become less and less assertive now, as I’ve grown up. When I was younger I was much more assertive, I tried to be more open to things.
You’re someone who likes to frequently collaborate with the same people throughout different films, both cast and crew. I noticed that the cinematographer for this film-
Luca Guadagnino: Sayombhu Mukdeeprom.
He’s also worked with you on your upcoming Suspiria remake.
Luca Guadagnino: Yes, we worked together on that one.
Suspiria has quite the reputation for its cinematography, especially the use of its neon colours.
Luca Guadagnino: There is no neon colours in my Suspiria. No neons and no primary colours. That film was influenced by Mario Bava, Dario Argento paid homage in the most striking way possible. So I don’t see why we should go back to that.
What stage is Suspiria at right now?
Luca Guadagnino: The director’s cut is nearly done, and we’re currently working on the sound and music right now.
Thank you so much for your time.
Call Me By Your Name will be released in Australian Cinemas on December 26 (Boxing Day), in the U.K. on October 27th and in the U.S. on November 24th.
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