Thursday, December 2, 2010

For Your Consideration

I had a bizarre case of deja vu a few days while re-watching the Luca Guadagnino Italian soap opera, I Am Love.  Being entranced by the otherworldly, freakishly alive performance from Tilda Swinton, I immediately began to think that this is one of the best roles of the year, performed with such spirit and ingenuity; she'd surely get bypassed by the prickly members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.  I sang her praises last year for her hellbent turn in Julia, which was unanimously ignored, and yet here I am again, urging the powers that be not to let another singular creation from this odd, alien, saucer being conjurer be forgotten.  It would be a shame.

The film, which I suppose can be best described as blissfully erratic, is pure pop melodrama, all punctuation.  But the wonderful, always watchable quality about a Tilda Swinton performance is how surprising and shape-shifting it is.  On first viewing, I was all too distracted by the opulent production design, and grandiose score, to really savior (and I believe that really is the right word for the performance and the film) the joys and complexities of the role she so formidably tackles.  Playing Emma Recchi, a Russian ex-patriot, who married into a wealthy Italian dynasty young enough to lose herself, Swinton dives into the heady role of trophy wife, living a fairly shallow existence with her fancy costumes and party planning.  As her children have become adults and she's pushed back further into a life in the background, she starts to re-awaken her sexuality, reborn to the idea of being alive and consumed by passion-- it helps that an attractive young chef has just started making googly-eyes at her.  Yet in an arc that could feel overly simplistic, or heavy-handed in the lavishness of Guadagnino's mis-en-scene, Swinton remains earthy, fresh and sexy.  It's such a fascinating case study, one of strength and resilience, a characterization on the fringe of one trying to reconcile familiar honor with independent desire.  She even manages to out-lingual Meryl Streep by speaking Italian the entire film.  Seriously what more on terms of range does the Academy want-- perhaps she should play a wannabe boxer from a poor, broken home in her next movie.

She simply owns the film, one which at times feels over ripe and a bit silly what with the huge canvas of peripheral characters and operatic scope, yet she devours it much like she did one year ago in Julia.  Since so much talk this awards season has been attentive to the depth of the leading actress category this year, I strongly suspect, barring some unforeseen miracle, that Swinton will get the snub, yet again, but again I implore to whomever will here my refrain, that this is a performer, and a performance of intrepid fragility and anguishing passion, it's not one to be missed.

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