Originally published on weekendnotes.com
I wait in the long line snaking its way one large city block up Little Bourke St. It is dinner time and torture to stand here waiting, while the tantalising smells of Chinatown waft past. What I wouldn’t give for a hot plate of fried noodles right now! A couple of women ahead of me are dissecting the commercial TV shows they love – If You Are The One, the Chinese dating show, and Survivor, ironically displaying the lowbrow, voyeuristic tastes that go hand in hand with their sophisticated film appreciation personas.
Unfortunately, the film is delayed due to a technical matter. The queue will be on the cold Melbourne city street a little longer. A man, cool but obviously not in the know, approaches the line and asks what we’re all lining up for.
“The film festival“, we answer, a cultured collective assured of our sophistication. “It must be good”, he smiles as he goes on his way, off to a bar or his dinner date.
Once the doors are opened, those in the know rush to bag the best seats, while the rest saunter in and buy drinks at the bar. The film festival is egalitarian in that it is first come first served for seats, a fact I forget every year until I find myself, literally, out in the cold.
The first film I saw this year was Luca Guadagnino’s ‘Call Me By Your Name‘, which explores the story of two adolescent men experiencing love and the difficult decisions that had to be made by a young, gay man in 1980s Italy. The film is visually beautiful, an homage to Crema, the town, where Guadagnino has lived for the last few years. For authenticity, the renowned director collected 2000 photos from people in Crema. Overwhelmingly they indicated “big hair and big shoulders“, he laughs. The vulnerability of the actors combined with the sad inevitability of the plot attracted a very loud and passionate applause from the crowd.
This film had what one audience member described as “overt Jewish undertones“. In the Q and A session Guadagnino addressed this concept with an explanation that the two characters experienced a similar marginalisation due to their Jewish backgrounds and this was another thing that which bonded them in their identification with each other. When Oliver says to Elio, “Call me by your name,” he is really saying, we are one and the same.
To have an opportunity to ask questions directly of a director and to hear his own analysis of a film is such a wonderful ‘extra’ offered to audiences as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival.
There are so many films on offer in this year’s festival. It’s such a delight to experience another world through the art of cinema. Don’t miss out.