I watched Call Me by Your Name last night in preparation for tonight’s Oscars.
I was immediately struck by how beautifully shot and perfectly paced the film is. As I watched Timothée Chalamet effortlessly go from speaking French to English to Italian back to French, I wasn’t surprised he was nominated for an Academy Award.
I was also struck by how the director eroticized Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer’s legs and crotches by almost constantly showing them wearing shorts, usually Daisy Dukes in Hammer’s case. There were even several shots of shorts strewn across the bed and hanging from shower faucets. There’s even a seen where Elio, Chalamet’s character, puts Oliver’s, Hammer’s character, freshly-laundered swimming trunks on his head.
As the movie went on, it angered me that films featuring Black men and women having this type of illicit fling aren’t as popular as Call Me by Your Name. At this point you may be thinking, That’s not true, Sheena. What about Moonlight?!
Well, let’s compare Moonlight and Call Me by Your Name, shall we? In Moonlight, Chiron lives in an impoverished neighborhood where he sometimes doesn’t have hot water and his mother is a drug addict. Elio’s mother inherited a house in Italy that the family stays in during the summer and winter and they have a live-in housekeeper who washes their clothes and prepares their meals. Now, Moonlight is based on the life of Tarell Alvin McCraney whose mother was a drug addict and who did grow up in an impoverished neighborhood, so that’s why these things were featured in Moonlight.
All I’m saying is I’d love to watch a film featuring Black women or men luxuriating in the grass for hours in the South of France or Spain or Italy. Where they lay by the pool and someone brings them freshly-squeezed apricot juice. I hate to be this person because I do think it means something that a movie featuring Black people who weren’t enslaved won Best Picture.
But when is a movie featuring wealthy Black people going to win Best Picture? Hmm?
Another difference between these films is Call Me by Your Name has several shots of Elio and Oliver’s bodies intertwined after sex, of them kissing each other’s necks, of physical displays of Elio’s youthful, obsessive love of Oliver. In Moonlight, Chiron is touched intimately on the beach early in the film and then his head is cradled by Kevin at the end. That’s it. That’s all the physical intimacy we get to see Chiron have with another man and it left me very disappointed.
I wanted my love scene. I wanted to see Black and Kevin kiss passionately. I wanted to see their bodies tangled amongst the sheets. I wanted to see the sweat drip off their brows as they lay exhausted in bed after ravaging each other. I got none of that.
This was probably Barry Jenkins’s way of making the beach scene and the head-cradling scene even more weighty, precious and intimate, but I still wanted more. Maybe that was the point.
At any rate, I loved Call Me by Your Name, but I won’t be satisfied until I see a Call Me by Your Name-esque film with two Black women or men protagonists get the same level of attention. After seeing Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira together in Black Panther, I’d love to see a movie in which they are married to other people, but fall in love with each other. Lupita Nyong’o can speak Spanish, Luo, English and Swahili. As she knows Spanish, the film can be set in Spain. Lupita can be a visiting professor and Danai can be a student taking her class. If I wasn’t so busy with other projects, I’d write this movie myself.
Well, it’s almost time for the big show. Who are you rooting for? As Issa Rae said, I’m rooting for everybody Black.