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Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino has advice for emerging filmmakers: Ignore first reactions to your work.
On Friday, Guadagnino told a masterclass at the Toronto Film Festival about his experience ten years ago with Io Sono l’Amore (I Am Love), which was met with a shower of boos at the Venice Film Festival before only days later being celebrated at the Toronto Film Festival.
“If it wasn’t for Toronto, I wouldn’t be talking to Toronto now,” the Italian director declared after recounting early disappointment in getting I Am Love, which starred Tilda Swinton, off the ground.
“We went through such difficulties in making it, and in the last part, during the final moments of post production, we were in deep trouble, with no sales agent to take the movie,” Guadagnino recounted.
Even a Toronto Film Festival programmers who had screened I Am Love just after it was posted turned it down. “My producer was shocked, and he called Toronto and Piers Handling, and he said, okay, I’ll see it. We sent a copy and the rest is history,” he added.
Before screening I Am Love to fest-goers in Toronto, the movie got a screening in Venice. “We had 300 walk outs and massive booing. The screening was a savage disaster,” Guadagnino recalled. But he wasn’t discouraged as his movie on its way to Toronto received favorable reviews in the Hollywood trades.
“When we arrived in Toronto, it became the opposite experience. The audience embraced the movie so warmly. We found an international sales agent, and suddenly people were interested in what I was doing,” he adds.
Guadagnino, whose latest movie, Salvatore: Shoemaker Of Dreams, bowed in Venice, has also since earned acclaim for his adaptation of the coming-of-age drama Call Me by Your Name, starring Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer, which he followed up with a remake of the horror film Suspiria.
Guadagnino is also tackling his first television series, We Are Who We Are, for HBO and Sky. As he looked back on his career, the Italian director paid tribute to Tilda Swinton, with whom he’s also collaborated on The Protagonists, A Bigger Splash and Suspiria, in addition to a number of TV commercials.
“I find great pleasure in writing for Tilda. She is the greatest humanistic performer of her generation. People define her as an alien. But I think she’s too modest and too humble in being defined as an alien. I think maybe she doesn’t want to say she is a great humanistic intellectual and performer,” Guadagnino argued.
The Italian director also talked about originality, or the lack of it, in movie remakes. “That’s a sort of artificiality. Since they wrote the Bible, One Thousand and One Nights and the oral histories of Africa, what has not been invented?” Guadagnino questioned.
“With every story, you can invent the point of view,” he added. The Toronto Film Festival continues through Sept. 19.
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