I Am Love (Io sono l'amore) (2009)

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Released 10-Nov-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Behind the Scenes of "I Am Love" (13.58)
Interviews-Cast & Crew-(1.06:48)
Theatrical Trailer-(1.53)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2009
Running Time 114:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Luca Guadagnino
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Tilda Swinton
Flavio Parenti
Edoardo Gabbriellini
Alba Rohrwacher
Pippo Delbono
Diane Fleri
Maria Paiato
Marisa Berenson
Waris Ahluwalia
Gabriele Ferzetti
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music John Adams


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     I Am Love (Io Son L'Amore) is an Italian soap-opera with a heavy accent on the opera. It was a long gestated project for director Luca Guadagnino and co-producer Tilda Swinton. Not content to just produce she also appears as the lead in the film as a wealthy Milanese society wife at the crossroads of her life.

     The plot of I Am Love could be described in minutes or hours. This is because for much of the film it moves like a dream, or more like an art-house film from the 70s. Also, for the first 30 minutes, it is almost a film about a grand house with the serving staff moving around, setting up and taking down like an Altman film. Essentially it is about the love affair between Emma Recchi, a Russian born woman who has married into a Milanese industrial dynasty. Swinton showed her dedication to the role by learning Italian for the film, using a Russian accent no less. Emma is married to Tancredi (Pippo Delbono), the apparent heir to the family textile business. At an elaborate dinner, however, the patriarch of the family Eduardo Senior (Gabriele Ferzetti) has other ideas, putting joint control into the hands of both his son and Emma's eldest, Edo (Flavio Parenti). Edo's dreams are a little more earth bound however. He has made friends with the chef Antonio (Edoarda Gabbriellini) and dreams about opening a restaurant with his new-found friend.

     When Emma, placid and cold in her married life, first meets Antonio she is touched by his presence. When she forks into a dish he has made especially for her it is a charged moment, she falls in love over a dish of prawns. The burgeoning love affair spells trouble all round - for Emma and her marriage, for Edo and his man-crush/secret love for Antonio and for the stability of these scions of Italian business. Tragedy lies just around the corner.

     The opera connections don't end with the heightened passion of Emma’s love for Antonio. The title of the film comes from the aria La Mamma Morta from Giordano's Andrea Chenier that wildly dramatic aria used to great effect in Philadelphia (seen briefly when Emma and Tancredi are in bed. It speaks to the wildness and overpowering nature of Emma's passion.

     I Am Love looks and feels like a film from another era. Most obviously, the history of Italian cinema passes like filtered light through I Am Love. The comparisons with Visconti's The Leopard, with its carefully composed domestic scenes are an obvious point of reference as are the works of Michelangelo Antonioni. The director and star mention the DNA of the Italian classics being part of their movie. The wealthy Milanese milieu recalls La Notte. In fact the whole film feels like it is from a more sensual age, most likely the 70s, in the David Hamilton-esque forest romps and a few moments described as Bertolucci tributes ( a reference to The Sheltering Sky). The references are so much a part of the film that Italian classic cinema fans will enjoy spotting the comparisons. In the commentary track Swinton also mentions Kubrick and there is a coldness in the film that recalls the great master. For all her dramatic skill Swinton has difficulty playing a character in love and her Emma is more a wild animal overcome with emotion than a woman finding her soul mate. Those who long for the era will find this film irresistible but those with less patience will find less to love about the troubles of these fabulously wealthy socialites.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     I Am Love was shot on 35mm film and projected at the cinema at a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This DVD is consistent with that ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.

     The director and cinematographer worked hard to give the film a specific look, recalling a glorious Italy of the past and the film has a distinctive look that doesn't make it, to my eyes, a showcase on DVD. The lighting is always diffuse lending a soft quality to the film and the countryside scenes are overbright. The result is a film that is at its best in close-up with mid and long shots fading into a glow. Mostly that suits the filmmaker’s intention but I found it unhelpful in the food scenes where we are supposed to marvel at the beauty and intricacy of the dishes Antonio prepares whereas frequently I struggled to get a clear idea of what was on the plate.

     The colours also consist mainly of dull reds and browns and the occasional flash of green and mandarin (of Emma's skirt). The grain is light and there are no other technical problems to speak of.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    I Am Love carries three soundtracks, all Dolby Digital. There is an Italian 5.1 track running at 448 Kb/s, an Italian 2.0 track running at 224 kb/s and an English 2.0 commentary track also at 224 kb/s. There is a little work for the surrounds to do, mostly in giving ambience to the exterior scenes although the sub-woofer doesn't really get much attention. The dialogue appears clear and easy to understand. There are a few moments where English is spoken and some Russian language sections. Audio sync appears fine.

     The music of I Am Love is by minimalist classical composer John Adams. Unlike his contemporary Phillip Glass, Adams is not a regular contributor to soundtracks. Here he uses original material and some music from other sources including his magnum opus Nixon in China. Musical scores are either designed as a subtle accompaniment to on-screen action or to drive the scene. Here it is a force of its own often drawing attention to itself. Is this a bad thing? Not in this case. It suits the European art-house style of the film. In the final scene in the film the music has such a dramatic power that it merges with the actions of Emma on-screen to create a powerful, breathtaking even, fusion.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     There are a series of excellent extras on this DVD.

Commentary with Director Luca Guadagnino and Tilda Swinton

     These two contributors know everything there is to know about the film, from the casting decisions, the decade long collaboration to get the film made and the themes and ideas at the heart of the story. This commentary is useful for many reasons including the explanatory comments on key moments in the film and also the technical production process. Not surprisingly the house gets a lot of mention as do the language problems. They are even prepared to let the viewer in on a scene, early in production where Swinton had not come to grips with Italian and her lines had to be pasted up out of shot around the set. An enjoyable commentary from start to finish.

Moments on the Set of I Am Love (13.58)

     This is a fairly standard Making of featurette showing some on-set action and containing interview material - some of it taken from extensive interviews. Still, worth a watch for the locations.

Interviews with the Cast and Crew (1:06:48)

     An extraordinarily generous series of interviews with the cast and crew:

Theatrical Trailer (1.53)

     A nice trailer for the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   The film has been released on DVD and Blu-ray in Region 1 and A respectively. For High Definition viewersthe Blu-ray seems mandatory but the feature set is the same.

Summary

     I Am Love is a sensual feast with strong performances from Tilda Swinton and a cast of experienced Italian actors. Whether the food and lust stirs you comes down to personal taste but anyone who loves 60s and 70s Italian cinema will get a buzz out of its stylish soap.

     The DVD quality appears muddy and indistinct. Not having seen the film in its brief cinema run it is hard to tell how much comes from the original quality but it is a disappointment. The extras are exceptional and make for a great package for fans.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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