"I Am Love" Asks, Will We Know It When We See It?

There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done. Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung. Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game. It’s easy. Tilda Swinton’s new film, Io Sono Amore ("I Am Love") embraces a rich tradition—or, rather, presents a multi-headed marriage of several rich traditions, each distinctly literary and irrational in its own way: cinema; infidelity; the eroticism of food; an Hermes bag—to name only a few. Swinton is one of the most intelligent actresses at work, possessing rigor, looks and—above all—preternatural cool. She does not seem to care what anyone thinks. Yet this film is certainly for thinkers.

Swinton’s inimitable insouciance is what makes us want to see her movies. Fitting for I Am Love, "insouciance" is a word that comes to mind when considering clichéd European attitudes toward things most Americans find shocking, like infidelity, or decadence. The story promises to be a high concept Unfaithful meets Hedda Gabler, an elegant and intelligent presentation of a woman trapped in rich ice. Swinton has spoken with wit in myriad interviews about the element of sex in the film, most recently with The Daily Beast, where she refers to it as "gastro porn."

Love, as has been pointed out in other articles on the now-global craze of Twilight, is back in style. Love, romance, restraint. Now that everything else is so readily available, people—even teenagers—want something less which ends up being something more: old-school seduction. Rarely has seduction been more highly stylized than by the Italians, and we see that in this film. I Am Love is not porn. It does not claim to be graphic in anything except the casual fetishization of a look, a coat, a hairstyle, the setting of a table.

The finest filmmakers know they need to show, not tell. They know that that whatever they do, they inevitably stand in a long line of critical symbols and precedents and traditions. Because nothing is new. This is why love still matters; it is the best thing through which a heroine, can truly re-invent herself. John Lennon knew: there’s nothing you can make that can’t be made. No one you can save that can’t be saved. Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time—it’s easy. All you need is love.


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