Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. Italy, 2009. First Sun, Mikado Film, Rai Cinema, La Dolce Vita Productions, Pixeldna, Ministero per I Beni e le Attivita Culturali. Story by Luca Guadagnino, Screenplay by Barbara Alberti, Ivan Cotroneo, Walter Fasano, Luca Guadagnino. Cinematography by Yorick Le Saux. Produced by Luca Guadagnino, Francesco Melzi d’Eril, Marco Morabito, Tilda Swinton, Alessandro Usai, Massimiliano Violante. Music by John Adams. Production Design by Francesca Balestra Di Mottola. Costume Design by Antonella Cannarozzi. Film Editing by Walter Fasano. Academy Awards 2010. Golden Globe Awards 2010. National Board of Review Awards 2010. Toronto International Film Festival 2009. Washington Film Critics Awards 2010.
Socialist propaganda is rarely this fun. Tilda Swinton is stunning as a Russian émigré living in Milan as the wife of an aristocratically wealthy fashion house. Her husband and son take over the family business when their beloved father (Gabriele Ferzetti) dies and leaves them jointly in charge. The son has become best friends with a chef with whom he hopes to open a restaurant, but not before samples of the man’s delights turn Swinton’s head and make her realize that she has been sensually asleep for many years. Her passion is awakened by this chef and she can’t help but indulge herself in a highly charged sexual affair, a destructive liaison that also reveals the rotten core of the world she has been living in for so many years. Of course, as usually happens in the movies when lust is consummated, disaster follows soon enough. There’s nothing original about Luca Guadagnino’s story, but what makes the film so remarkable is how well it is presented: visually intoxicating, the sun-drenched images indulge quite liberally in Swinton’s fashionable Jill Sander and Fendi wardrobe, while the rich musical score and picturesque settings take one back to the days of Visconti at his highest aesthetic brilliance. It isn’t just a plush-fest, however, as the characterizations are extremely well detailed and the pace never flags, especially as Swinton is an intoxicating actor who is never dull to observe. Also look for a wonderful supporting turn by Marisa Berenson.