I Am Love (I Am Cinema) and good things we eat and drink

Above: Over the weekend, Tracie P made cabbage leaves stuffed with shredded pork and rice and then braised in puréed tomato. Delicious…

The same way some of my favorite wine bloggers share my passion for music, like McDuff and Eric the Red, many of my blogging colleagues share my passion for cinema, like Lyle and Tom. (They tell me I know a little about cinema and Italian cinema in particular.)

Over the weekend, Tracie P and I finally went to see I am Love, the (relatively) new (to American audiences) movie by director Luca Guadagnino. We both loved it and I highly recommend it (and I thank Comrades A and H for nudging us to see it!).

Above: Summertime means PANZANELLA chez Parzenella… so yummy…

There are plenty of insightful reviews of the movie but I wanted to make one (I feel) important point about it. So many reviewers have made reference to Guadagnino’s homage to Visconti in this work (and there is a Viscontian influence here, no doubt). But there are many other cinéaste and cinephilic references here.

I’m not the first to note that Pasolini’s Teorema is a patent model for this work, where chef Antonio is a parallel to Terrence Stamp’s character in the former.

But I may be the first to point out that Antonioni’s influence is also immensely felt here: the shots of Milan and in particular industrial Milan are clear references to Antonioni’s tetraology, L’Avventura, La Notte, L’Eclisse, and The Red Desert. And even more significantly, the characters’s sense of alienation and the “substitution” of one relationship for another in the search for elusive happiness owe much to Antonioni’s thoughtfully two-dimensional world.

Above: Some southern girls knew how to make fried green tomatoes even before they went Hollywood! Gelatinous on the inside, crispy on the outside.

Most significantly, I Am Love is a film that is aware of being a film and being part of a great cinematic tradition: I am Cinema. The shots of industrial Milan and the textile factories, for example, evoked a genre of Italian nationalist documentary filmmaking that first emerged during fascism and reached its peak during the “economic miracle” of the 1960s. The use of Giacomo Giulio da Milano’s font Neon in the credits and captions was a sort of epicinematic allusion that paid homage to the grand tradition of Italian design at its peak in the 1930s (Neon was forged in 1935 at the Fonderia Nebiolo in Turin). Those same “happy years” of fascism saw the Recchi family expand their influence, power, and wealth (remember the conversation between Edoardo and his colleague?).

Above: The 2008 Sauvignon Blanc by Clos Roche Blanche is probably going to be my white wine of the summer. At under $20 (available at The Austin Wine Merchant, where we got it), this delicious wine paired stunningly (and affordably) well with the pork medallions that Tracie P served with shredded cabbage and homemade pear chutney. Really and truly one of those sublime pairings.

The overarching theme of Gaudagnino’s film and story is one that belongs steadfastly to Italian cinema, especially when viewed in its inherently Marxisant paradigm: the alienation of a sense of humanity through the reification of the body.

And, here, I am confident that Gaudagnino would agree with me: Antonio the proletarian chef, whose craft brings him into contact with an otherwise elitist and esoteric group (after he “beats” Edoardo in the race), becomes a conduit that allows the characters to “return to nature” using a Leopardian and ultimately Rousseauan lexicon.

The food porn sequence (where Emma eats a shrimp, how phallic is that?) and the farm-to-table sex sequence (a symphony of cross pollination) represent the triumph of nature over materialism.

After all, when the chef at some chichi lower Manhattan restaurant regales her/his patrons with tales of the farmhouse where she/he has sourced her/his heirloom cultivars of elderflowers used to infuse her/his coulis, is it not an extravagant (in the etymological sense of the word) attempt to cheat materialism for the sake of a false Mother nature?

I hope that Emma will find what she’s looking for in Antonio, but somehow I don’t think she will…

I am love, I am cinema, and I am a fried green tomato. Thanks for reading…

And buona visione, as they say…

16 thoughts on “I Am Love (I Am Cinema) and good things we eat and drink

  1. Holy schnike, Jar-Man! Now I know why you’ve been silent the past few days. What a freakin’ intense post. Now I pretty much have to see “I am Love,” even if I won’t take away from it half of what you’ve just expressed.

    PS: gotta imagine the CRB SB would also be a pretty fine match to TrP’s fantastic looking FGTs.

  2. A flashpoint in the film, for me, was when they inserted a map shot and my little town, Airole, was smack dab in the middle. From then on I was looking for the Rossese di Dolceacqua on the table.

    I loved the film and while I felt the weight of the great Visconti (and De Sica and Antonioni and Pasolini) I also noted the influence of Alain Resnais. Call me crazy, but I love me my Italian (and French) cinema.

  3. What namesake McDuff said. We need Dr.P to cast his net along the bubbling ferments of culture at its widest wetlands delta point…
    & caro Alfonso’s comment makes me even curioser…

  4. Loved the film…..thinking about it in a whole new light after reading your post.

    Regards, David and Steven

  5. That first picture, of the stuffed cabbage – that’s totally a Russian (or Jewish?) dish (or so I grew up being told), called “goloobtsi” – my family always made it exactly like you described, except I’ve never seen stuffed cabbage look so bright and green – must be a special cabbage. And we add a touch of sour cream on top.

  6. yes, that was one sassy savoy cabbage. we locked eyes in the produce aisle, with her verdant charm and vivacious leaves, the likes of which i had never seen at the grocery store. it was unexpected, but i had to take her home.

  7. Tracie’s food looks fabulous as always. I’ve actually heard a lot of mixed things about the movie. I’m not convinced either way. Alienation in Milan and in Italian cinema is certainly one current that runs through many of the wonderful movies made lo these last 40 years. I’m not inspired by Tilda Swinton though I heard that some of the scenes are actually quite enticing. It seemed quite Milanese not in the best sense of the word and as you know I am a fan of that Lombard city. Chefs and communication sort of reached its high point with that last scene in Big Night which I am sure you are familiar with when Tony Shalub makes his brother an Omelet. That speaks to me.

  8. wow, thank you so much, everyone, for the wonderful comments and insights. I’m so glad that you enjoyed this post (and Tracie P’s cooking as much as I did!).

    We really liked the movie…

    @Gary yes, my mother made stuffed cabbage, too. She defrosts some every time I go home.

    Seriously, the feedback means a great deal to me and I’m so glad to be part of this community of bloggers! :-)

    and as Tracie P says above, ya’ll are always welcome for dinner Chez Parzenella (seriously!).

  9. Hi Jeremy, could you tell me where the typeface Neon was supposedly used in the movie?
    You wrote “in the credits and captions” but in the trailers I see other typefaces (even in credits).
    Plus, it’s Giulio, not Giacomo… ;-)

  10. @Claudio thanks for the heads up! Corrected. :-)

    Am I nuts to think that Neon and/or a font inspired by it are used in the captions?

    Maybe I got the font wrong (although I don’t think so) but the concept is the same: the same font used for shops and other businesses pervaded the city of Milan during fascism.

  11. Hmm… In 1935 they did not use “fonts” for signs or exposed writings. Luckily. :-)

    However, I have never seen Neon used in a shop sign, except in the Caffè Cagliari and Bialetti logos which are lettered in a pretty similar style. Da Milano produced something quite unique. He was a painter and a teacher as well. I have a watercolor from him in a 1948 book.

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