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I Am Love (2010)


Mr. Arkadin
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I haven't yet seen the film, but from what little I've read of this discussion, I would be amazed if I didn't wind up in Jeff's camp.

Just curious: What is Jeff's camp, in your opinion? I think I know the answer to this question, but it's shifted as I've read more of his feedback. Maybe it's just me, but I want to be sure I understand where Jeff's coming from, and that you understand it, too.

Just to clarify, Jeff started his series of reaction posts with this:

I'm not as enthusiastic as Ryan, but I did find a great deal to enjoy here.

So he's mixed, but leaning positive, right?

EDIT: OK, I'm baiting a bit. I sense that Jeffrey has been gradually souring on the film over the course of his posts, but maybe he's just playing devil's advocate. Lest anyone take this the wrong way, I enjoy threads that demonstrate evolving reactions and think we're in the midst of one.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I thought it was: the vegetables were good, but the shrimp tasted really off. Later digestion confirmed that suspicion.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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I thought it was: the vegetables were good, but the shrimp tasted really off. Later digestion confirmed that suspicion.

:lol:

Oh, and Jeff wondered what the big deal was about the prawns scene, but that was just one blogger or reviewer I had linked to. I happened to agree with him -- found the scene kind of gross rather than delectable -- but I don't think that scene is considered controversial.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Ryan H. wrote:

: Like the ancient Hebrews, we're free to despoil the Egyptians and take what we find of value. After all, if the merit of a work of art lay just in its moral argument, then we could hardly celebrate the works of Homer.

Ah, a classicist after my own heart.

M. Leary wrote:

: Let's put this old saw to rest. What happens with all that gold and stuff a few chapters later?

ALL the gold and stuff? If the Golden Calf had used up all the gold and stuff, then where did the Ark of the Covenant come from?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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After all, if the merit of a work of art lay just in its moral argument, then we could hardly celebrate the works of Homer.

I have no argument with this, and have said nothing to the contrary.

My original statements about the film still stands. The movie is riveting and hypnotic, and I highly recommend it as a stunning exhibition of cinematography, editing, architecture, and acting. Of the films I've seen this year, it's one of the finest works of craftsmanship, but it's also one of its most disappointing in terms of what it conveys about its subject.

Like The English Patient, it's a well-made film with some poison at the core. And I would be irresponsible to heap praise upon its packaging without also acknowledging the lie that is being packaged.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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ALL the gold and stuff? If the Golden Calf had used up all the gold and stuff, then where did the Ark of the Covenant come from?

It was just the earrings in the calf, but I hate the way people overlook the specifics of the narrative here.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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There's some very funny discussion (I thought it was funny) of the film at the latest Oscar Poker broadcast, hosted by Jeffrey Wells and featuring Sasha Stone. If you know Wells' proclivities, you can guess where the discussion of the film goes. :) Always frank and matter of fact about these matters, Wells makes observations that crack me up. I'm not saying they're edifying or even substantive, but Wells thinks they are, and hey, who am I to argue?

[Discussion comes well into the podcast, probably at least halfway.]

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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ALL the gold and stuff? If the Golden Calf had used up all the gold and stuff, then where did the Ark of the Covenant come from?

It was just the earrings in the calf, but I hate the way people overlook the specifics of the narrative here.

I'm not sure the specifics of the narrative really kill the notion, though. Just goes to show that the "spoils" can be put to good and evil uses.

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The movie is riveting and hypnotic, and I highly recommend it as a stunning exhibition of cinematography, editing, architecture, and acting. Of the films I've seen this year, it's one of the finest works of craftsmanship, but it's also one of its most disappointing in terms of what it conveys about its subject.

I like that you've found things to praise, but still feel you are being too black and white on its morality, a morality that, as has been said, I don't think is the film's point. But even if it were, as I pointed out already, too many years have gone in Emma's life with this family -- years where she wasn't even allowed to speak her own language -- for anyone to be able to judge her in a two hour summary of her experience. And the ending is absolutely devastating, not celebratory in any way.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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The film definitely deals more in terms of stasis and change than good and evil. Applying a moral analysis to its characters' behavior probably won't yield much insight into its meaning, since their actions are inherently irrational. They either hold on to structure (tradition, family) or let themselves be carried off by emotion. In this sense, the film is amoral, and it doesn't care that you think its characters should pursue a more meaningful ideal of love. There isn't much point in disagreeing with the film's morality, because it doesn't have a morality--though you could certainly criticize it for not having a morality.

I guess the main difficulty I had with the film is that it definitely feels like an article of consumption--as ambivalently decadent and sensuous as Antonio's prawns. The absence of ethics and the exclusive focus on the rich (and their lovers) pose obstacles to the film's invitation to participate in its emotional welter. It's more than a beautiful showpiece, for sure. Maybe it's a kind of humanistic pean to the power of the heart, but it doesn't really interrogate the weaknesses of that perspective so much as embody them.

One reason why the filmmakers don't want us to see Emma as oppressed might be to emphasis her agency and consent. She is oppressed by the family insofar as she allows them control. She made the choice to leave Russia, to leave behind her identity, even if her consent came second to her husband's will. In the end, however, her choices dismantle the whole familial system and leave behind a ruin. Maybe we're meant to presume that she had this power in her all along.

Everything that matters is invisible.

-- Robert Bresson

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I can almost agree with you, KShaw. I like this: "Maybe it's a kind of humanistic pean to the power of the heart, but it doesn't really interrogate the weaknesses of that perspective so much as embody them." I think that's excellent.

But do you really believe that the concluding scene does not incline us to view Emma and Betta as enlightened in some way? Isn't there a kind of blessing, a sanctifying light, falling on their "liberated" perspective, leaving the others in the shadows of scowling, judgmental, inflexible disapproval?

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Well, 'liberation' and 'enlightenment' imply forward progress, and I don't think the characters in this film move linearly. They just kind of go with the flow. The ending in particular is both musical (rest and coda) and emotional (mournful and peaceful) but I can't say it feels all that judgmental.

Actually, come to think of it, Emma doesn't seem all that free to me, either, despite what I said about her agency. She does have a choice, but she chooses between two equally coercive options: traditional authority and uncontrollable passion. So maybe that's why the filmmakers don't see her as oppressed in the beginning--because she's no less 'oppressed' by her husband and family than she is by love and change. Both possess her, not the other way around.

[sorry if the edits are confusing, I keep revising my thoughts on this one!]

Everything that matters is invisible.

-- Robert Bresson

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  • 1 month later...

One element not discussed here, and not much elsewhere, is the meaning of the film's title. The title actually derives from the aria, "La mamma morta" (which plays in the PHILADELPHIA segment quoted by the film), the text of which is fascinating, and may have some interesting implications for how we read the film:

They have killed my mother

at the door of my room

She died and saved me.

Later, at dead of night,

I was with Bersi,

when suddenly

a bright glow flickers

and lights were ahead of me

the dark street!

I looked -

My childhood home was on fire!

I was alone!

surrounded by nothingness!

Hunger and misery

deprivation, danger!

I fell ill,

and Bersi, so good and pure

made a market of her beauty

for my sake -

I bring misfortune to all who care for me!

It was then, in my grief,

that love came to me.

A voice full of harmony says,

"You must live, I am life itself!

Your heaven is in my eyes!

You are not alone.

I shall collect all your tears

I will walk with you and support you!

Smile and hope! I am Love!

Are you surrounded by blood and mire?

I am Divine! I am Oblivion!

I am the God who saves the World

I descend from Heaven and make this Earth

A paradise! Ah!

I am love, love, love."

And the angel approaches with a kiss,

and in that kiss is death -

The dying body is my body.

So take it.

I have already died like that!

And this is the scene from PHILADELPHIA where the aria is discussed (and contains the segment quoted in Guadagnino's film):

Edited by Ryan H.
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  • 3 weeks later...

Watching this again, I was struck by the significant formal similarities between the end of I Am Love and The New World. Not only are both steeped in thoughts about motherhood and self-realization, but both exist in color-saturated montage, modified film speeds, and a massive crest of music.

The problem is that I Am Love suffers by this comparison. I don't like the way the hyper-privatized final shot (including the

Georgia O'Keeffe-like cave

) forces us to to squeeze the cinematic glory of the entire film through this narrow exit. It reminds me of the way Jonathan Edwards famously described sin, which is the process by which the heart continually turns in on itself until it becomes tiny. If it weren't for this final shot, I would read the film entirely differently. As it is, she is basically Updike's Rabbit.

Let's say the film did not contain this shot. If that were the case, I would be happy to see Emma as someone much like many of us, who enduring unexpected losses, desires, and injustices summons the internal strength to claim something for herself that offers the hope of an unbroken newness. Whether that is misguided or not is irrelevant; the film simply charts the increasing momentum of that idea. Ultimately, I think Denis' Vendredi soir expresses this somewhat complex emotional state very well. I Am Love would be there if not for that last image.

Edited by M. Leary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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I think that's a very fair comment. I've seen I AM LOVE quite a few times now, and as much as I admire the film, I find the final shot to be its most problematic aspect.

And, FWIW, it's not the only problematic final shot in this year's crop of films, either; see INCEPTION's final shot, which makes a muddle of the preceding narrative/thematic arc.

Edited by Ryan H.
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I want to get this but I'm not sure I do. Is it --

The shot of Emma looking directly at the family in the mansion and then darting out the door? If so,

I'm not sure why that changes anything.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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I want to get this but I'm not sure I do. Is it --

The shot of Emma looking directly at the family in the mansion and then darting out the door? If so,

I'm not sure why that changes anything.

No, I was referring to the

cave shot, which due to its geometrical form and subject matter called to mind some of O'Keeffe's flower paintings. Many see a representation of the female private parts in these paintings. I couldn't help but read this last shot of I Am Love in a similar manner. And to top it all off, O'Keeffe herself had a lot of similarities to this character.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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Oh, is that over the credits? I think I remember now. Interesting.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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It reminded me of the penultimate image in Blue: the mysterious love-making scene where it looks like Olivier and Julie are in some kind of glass-walled underground chamber. But that image is part of an extraordinary sequence.

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Oh, is that over the credits? I think I remember now. Interesting.

It occurs immediately following a small burst of credits. A small coda, if you will. I'm intrigued by Michael Leary's comment about the image suggesting something like O'Keefe's flowers. I'm not sure I quite buy into that way of reading the moment. Rather than O'Keefe, that coda had me thinking of Tristan and Isolde.

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Too bad I hadn't read this thread before I returned the film to Netflix. I totally skipped out on the 'final shot' folks are talking about. But then again, it does sound like I'm better off for it.

Anyway, there's not much I can add to a thread already brimming with insight. Great film. Certainly the most artistic film of the year that I've seen. I cast my vote on the side of those who believe the film does not 'take sides' with Emma. It's a rock and a hard place for her.

Her daughter, on the other hand...

I'm not drinking alone. I'm drinking with the Lord.

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Too bad I hadn't read this thread before I returned the film to Netflix. I totally skipped out on the 'final shot' folks are talking about.

That's kind of why I didn't think of it either. I was on a schedule, and as soon as I knew it was done -- and in this film, you KNOW when it is done -- I darted for the door, wanted to be the first one out of the theater and not have to stand in a line to get out. I did see the shot they're talking about, but barely, as I was making way toward the Exit sign. In my hurry I didn't think much of it. Can't wait to catch this again on DVD.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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