I am finally catching up with these year’s films. I saw this film earlier this summer, I was blown away by the beauty and elegance of this movie; everything about it was stunning. It reminded me of great, Italian dramas from Antonioni. Plus Gabriele Ferzetti, remember him as the lover/architect from L’Avventura, plays the family’s patriarch. Parts of the cinematography reminded me of Bo Widerberg’s 1967 film Elvira Madigan. It is the kind of piece we haven’t seen in a long time.
The story unfolds at the polished rooms of a Milanese villa ignite with anxious activity as the wealthy industrial family, the Recchis, prepare to celebrate the birthday of their patriarch. It is an occasion designed to ensconce family traditions; the handsome grandson, Edoardo, introduces his new girlfriend; his sister presents another piece of her artwork to her grandfather; and the grandfather, knowing this is his last birthday, names the successor to his empire.
Eduardo Sr.(Gabriele Ferzetti), has decided to name a successor to the reigns of his massive industrial company, surprising everyone by splitting power between his son Tancredi (Pippo Delbono), and grandson Edo (Flavio Parenti), but his younger brother, Gianluca (Mattia Zaccaro), is left out of the deal entirely. Complicating matters further, Tancredi plans to sell the business, which upsets Edo Jr. who values the family tradition. At the same time Edo dreams of opening a restaurant with his friend Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini), a handsome and talented chef.
As the refined familial machinations unfold, the woman of the house, Emma Recchi (Tilda Swinton), glides along the tight seams of the family, exuding elegance and uncertain turbulence. A feast for the senses, Luca Guadagnino’s magnificent film possesses a vibrant and formally irreverent style that articulates its themes of passion and constraint. Swinton turns in a stunning performance as the central muse of a tale about the irresistible draw of forbidden passion and the bittersweet victory of liberation from the constrictions of wealth and power.
Writer-director Luca Guadagnino indulges the viewer with a grandiose family drama packed with rich scenery, magnificent performances and elegant camerawork, the critics that claim the film is boring, they haven’t seen the work of Antonioni.
Meanwhile, the Recchi women are struggling with matters of their own. Tancredi's daughter, Elisabetta (Alba Rohrwacher), has a boyfriend, but upon moving to the UK for school, realizes her sexual preferences may lay elsewhere. Lastly, there's the children's mother and Tancredi's wife, Emma (Tilda Swinton), who must not only keep a watchful eye on her family's troubles but her own as well, namely her affection for Edo's friend Antonio. The only together one is Allegra Recchi, the matriarch, played by the always beautiful Marisa Berenson
At the start, the situation is fairly overwhelming. The opening scene tosses the viewer into a lavish dinner with a regal and pompous family you've never met discussing the fate of their fortune.
The director carefully explores each Recchi’s predicament, but the characters come across as separate entities rather than one family. Yes, every Recchi is living his or her own separate life--Tancredi constantly at work, Emma obsessed with canoodling with Antonio, Betta at school and Edo with his new wife--and their issues are more personal, but they're so far removed from one another they seem to belong to different movies entirely. Other than their blood, there's little connecting them all.
As the story progresses the predicaments are finally cooked and congeal, making for a tremendously compelling and satisfying third act. Shots of the Italian countryside have the power to make you feel as though you’re there while close-ups of the exquisite delicacies the Recchi’s indulge in practically melt in your mouth. Cinematographer Yorick Le Saux’s work is flawless, giving even the smallest detail an incredible presence.
Tilda Swinton is fantastically natural and captivating as always, Parenti makes for a warm and likable Edo and Delbono a stoic Tancredi, but Rohrwacher and Maria Paiato, who plays Emma's maid and confidant, establishes the most powerful connection in a small supporting role, while she immediately wins your heart not only for her dedication to her work, but genuine love for the family as well. Ida is only appears in small doses throughout the film, but even in the shortest instant, is able to command the screen.
This is a great film; I believe that most moviegoers lack the taste for an Italian operatic melodrama. However, for those willing to tolerate the film’s slow and deliberate buildup, the effects are profound. This is a particularly well-made film, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.