Monday, December 4, 2017

Analysis of Tragedy: "Call Me By Your Name"

The message behind CALL ME BY YOUR NAME is exactly the same as BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, WEEKEND, and every critically lauded gay film the last decade: you can eat your gay cake for a moment but we're going to need you to suffer horribly, be hetero-domesticated, killed, destroyed, or ruined internally to get approval from straight white critics. But hey at least you had that tasty slice before digging into a never ending mountain of shit for the rest of your life. Oh and gay sex should be filmed tastefully, like the director's mom is coming to the premiere so lots of shadows, suggestions, and maybe a splotch of elmer's glue here and there. Oh and no one will want you after a certain age so enjoy it before everything sags, you strange, sad, doomed men. You have no future and we find that beautiful and appropriate because we can only tolerate so much of you. By the way, we can tolerate a smidge more sex if you're all white, but still...not that much because you're gross and tragic.

*SPOILERS BELOW*

In the closing speech the father admitted to being a semi-closeted gay who thirsted (and maybe still thirsts) for a male sexual relationship but was too scared. Now he's married to this wife in a friendly relationship that lacks passion. That's why the speech is so good: he's talking to his son but he's really talking about his own regrets. So now he devotes himself to neck-up activities b/c the father is unhappy and lacking in passion in his life. The father is cinematically filmed in an avuncular but detached way. These are half-dead zombies who lead a pleasant life in the country that is removed from anything. The mother hides her Jewish identity b/c this is a family that believes in hiding identities. They are bourgeoisie dishonest in sneaky and pernicious ways. That's why the son is encouraged to not wear a star of david. This is a family that is polite, pleasant, avoids conflict, and hides. They pass as Christians, which is kind of saying a huge thing since this is about gay men passing and shoving down their love. The father talks about dead languages and etymology so much b/c he is both seeking to find the truth but also trying to get distance from it. He invites a man who is in his field who is EXACTLY like him, except younger.

The professor is also closeted, but acts out on the boy, before getting married to a woman just like the father. It is implied that the boy will probably follow suit in marriage for the sake of keeping up appearances, and no one will say anything about it, but will politely accept it. And the main point of study is digging up these ancient Greek statues, many of which are nude males.

The statues represent digging up something from the past but also exhuming bodies of the 'Greek way of life.' Later on, you see the men (and only the men), frolicking in the very same water they've exhumed the statues from, but there is a distance between them. The professor shakes the son's hand using a statue. It's prop humor but also symbolic of this strange gloom that will take over their bodies with age and propriety. They will become like the homoerotic Greek statues: shattered, cold, buried, and in pieces. Aesthetically everything is pointing toward tragedy, death, sadness. Finally the son has nosebleeds. Like a lot. This is a thing with him. This is not normal or a positive healthy sign of someone who has a healthy sense of self. The nosebleeds symbolize the keeping of secrets and desire. But when the desire is expressed we see something else happen: flies. The son is filmed in these scenes with these black house flies like he's rotting or stinking or something is off. In the closing scene of the movie it is winter. Everything is dead and snow is on the ground. The son is dressed in white and black patterned clothes. He gets the phone call from the professor about his marriage. Color palette has been drained of life and vitality. In the final shot, the son is literally staring into a fire while a black fly dancing around his neck.

None of these things mentioned are positive signs. Moving from summer to winter, drained color, house flies, staring into a fire and being filmed through the flames as if he's being cremated, and crying: these are all signs of a death that the entire movie has pointed toward.

Could the death mise en scene symbolize a death of innocence the movie is highlighting? Yes it could...if it wasn't for how this death fits within the larger context of the movie which is about hiding, shame, lies through omission, and denying desire in favor of propriety. Now we're not just talking about a death of youth, but a death of the soul, a death of love, a death of truth.

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