“Please stay until the very last title card.” That was “Call Me by Your Name” director Luca Guadagnino’s concluding imperative before ceding the floor at the TLC Chinese Theater in Hollywood to unspool his coming-of-age love story at AFI Fest 2017 Friday night.
Without spoiling the content of those final frames, I cosigned his command.
Two hours and 12 minutes later, an emotionally stirring and softly crackling end-credits sequence is woven into the narrative of the film, serving as protracted cinematic punctuation.
“(Guadagnino’s films) always transport you to a place you wish you could spend a few months in,” AFI Festival director Jacqueline Lyanga had said minutes earlier. She was right. As the AFI crowd moved across Hollywood Blvd. for an after party at the Roosevelt Hotel, many probably felt like catching the next plane to 1983 northern Italy, when and where the film took place.
The lead actors Timothée Chalamet (playing 17-year-old Elio) and Armie Hammer (playing 24-year-old Oliver) fill the dog days of summer with backroad bike rides, shirtless volleyball, clandestine swimming holes, and staccato verbal volleys with eccentric foreigners over boozy lunches. The heart of the story is the exploration of their secret romantic relationship.
While “Brokeback” via Lombardia may not normally raise eyebrows, in the current climate of hourly explosive revelations of sexual harassment and assault across the entertainment industry, any tenor of impropriety in a physical relationship made this all the more sensitive.
The reckoning of toxic Hollywood predators was not addressed by the filmmakers nor framed by festival organizers. There seemed to be some mental partitioning among audience when it came to this film.
“I can’t stop thinking about them,” one entertainment news colleague told me the next day. “I literally just want them to be together.”
As actors, they were not together on Friday night.
“Armie sends his love from Montreal, where he is shooting a movie,” Guadagnino said in the introductions.
Breakout Chalamet and Michael Stuhlbarg (having a killer year with “Fargo” Season 3 also) carried the cast mantle.
Sony Pictures Classics releases the film on Nov. 24, over Thanksgiving weekend. AFI Fest presented by Audi continues daily through Thursday, Nov. 16.