‘I Am Love’: Swinton is swell in pretentious tale

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Wednesday, June 23, 2010 9:23pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of audience develops for “I Am Love,” a daft new Italian film.

Romance novel enthusiasts, perhaps? Interior design mavens? Fans of contemporary classical music? One audience is certain: Devotees of the glorious, Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton (and that should be all of you) will gobble this movie up.

Swinton rules supreme in this lushly appointed film directed by Luca Guadagnino. She plays Emma, the Russian wife of a textile manufacturer in Milan. Elegant and socially adept, her children now grown to adulthood, her husband having (mostly) assumed stewardship of the dynastic business, she ought to be settling in for her calm middle years.

In other words, she is ripe for a disaster. Or at least a foolish adventure.

That arrives in the form of her son’s friend Antonio (Eduardo Gabbriellini), a sensitive-yet-hunky chef. Uh-oh. Could there be any larger temptation for Emma (or the movie’s target audience) than a tender, handsome young stud who can also cook up a sublime dish of scampi?

Yep, the movie goes there. Emma’s grand passion for Antoino is reflected by the incredibly ornate production design, which favors dazzling rooms and costumes — all of it offered on a large scale.

The soundtrack is also a beauty, as it uses excerpts from pieces composed by John Adams, whose postmodern-classical works also sneaked into the soundtrack to “Shutter Island.” Particularly in the opening sequence, the music works to build the movie’s sense of grandness.

And then there’s Tilda Swinton, the forceful British actress (and award-winner for “Michael Clayton”) who is quickly approaching movie-goddess status. Approaching? Make that “long since achieved.”

Along with navigating the peaks of valleys of passion suppressed and unleashed, Swinton merely speaks Russian and Italian for the entirety of the movie. Yawn — just another impeccable outing for this amazing actress.

At some point, even Swinton gets inundated by the over-the-top approach. An outdoor idyll between the two heavy-breathing lovers becomes a particularly egregious excuse for silliness.

So: a pretentious, overblown movie. The odd thing is, I’d happily watch it again. There are lots of reasons to enjoy movies, and immersing yourself in an absurdly overstuffed, overblown slice of Euro- pudding is certainly one of them.

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