Movie director Luca Guadagnino returns to the music of John Adams in his critically acclaimed Call Me By Your Name, nominated for three Golden Globes and four Oscars including Best Picture.
Luca Guadagnino's coming-of-age romance, Call Me By Your Name, opens with the dancing, interlocking rhythms of John Adams's two piano work Hallelujah Junction underscoring the opening credits, marking the arrival of American doctoral student Oliver at the family villa of 17-year-old Elio and his scholarly parents for a langourous summer in Northern Italy. The meshing of music with emotional subtext, foretelling two equals embarking on a courting ritual, is typical of one of cinema's great modern-day sensualists and demonstrates the director's continuing love for the music of John Adams.
Call Me By Your Name is the third film in a triptych by Guadagnino exploring aspects of desire. I Am Love (2009) starring Tilda Swinton, used existing music by Adams throughout the movie, and was followed by A Bigger Splash (2015) starring Ralph Fiennes, Swinton again, Matthias Schoenaerts and Dakota Johnson. Call Me By Your Name, based on the book by André Aciman, stars Timothée Chalamet - Oscar nominated for Best Leading Actor, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg and Amira Casar. The sensitive and understated screenplay by James Ivory, of Room with a View, Howard's End and The Remains of the Day fame, won a BAFTA and was Oscar nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Luca Guadagnino's self-confessed obsessive fascination with the music of John Adams dates back more than a decade to a birthday present from a Sony executive, a disc of the composer's symphonic magnum opus Naive and Sentimental Music, as he describes in an interview in Pitchfork:
"I put the disc in the CD player, and suddenly when those first notes, dun dun dun started, I immediately got completely kidnapped by the musical world of John Adams. Since that first epiphany, I started to dig in to him. I started to look for everything that I could find recorded by John Adams, and I became a sort of an encyclopedia of what he has done as a musician. John Adams comes to me constantly. I can say to you that really that moment in 2005 was transformative and changed my life as a director forever."
Piano music is central to Call Me By Your Name, inextricably linked to the lead character of Elio, himself a gifted pianist and arranger. In addition to the returning use of Hallelujah Junction, Guadagnino also employs Adams's solo piano works Phrygian Gates and China Gates, as well as Ravel's Une barque sur l’océan from Miroirs, Le jardin féerique from Mother Goose, and music by Bach, Satie and Sakamoto. This is complemented with period pop providing authenticity for the 1980s setting, and heart-aching new songs written by Sufjan Stevens, including the Oscar nominated Mystery of Love.
Guadagnino explains in Pitchfork how he has an instinctual relationship with piano music, searching for the piece to provide the perfect mood: "It’s a dialogue. In fact, in Call Me By Your Name, we have extensive usage of piano because those notes, in a way, are the interior and exterior dialogue between Elio and himself, and Elio and Oliver."
> Read the full interview in Pitchfork
"Music is intrinsic to Call Me By Your Name, both as a key plot/character point and in its varied use on the soundtrack. Right from the moment when John Adams’s Hallelujah Junction jolts the opening credits with an infectious burst of pianistic energy, we have a sense that Guadagnino’s ear will be almost as crucial to the action as his eye. Not only will Hallelujah Junction return to enliven the proceedings later on, Adams’s Phrygian Gates makes a quizzical point and his China Gates contributes a sunny mood."
The Whole Note
Other movie usages of music by John Adams have included Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island (2010). Adams's opera The Death of Klinghoffer was filmed by Penny Woolcock for Channel 4 in 2003 and won the Prix Italia that year.
> Listen to the soundtrack on Spotify
> View the movie trailer
> Visit the official website
Photo: Sony Pictures Classics
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