The official opening night film for the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival was “Borg/McEnroe.” Despite a unique tennis story and the kitsch factor of Shia LaBeouf playing John McEnroe (perhaps a little too on the nose), the were hardly any buzz from Roy Thompson Hall which was filled mostly by festival sponsors. Instead, social media and the rest of the festival was ablaze over the TIFF premiere of “Call Me By Your Name” which earned rave reviews at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival in January (you can read mine here).
Sony Pictures Classics closed the lid on all North American festival screenings after Sundance. TIFF was the first time it was shown publicly since a large number of the world’s film critics declared the adaptation of Andre Aciman’s 2007 novel a “masterpiece.” Director Luca Guadagnino and stars Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer were on hand as the film earned a standing ovation which you can watch in the video embedded in this story.
Granted, standing ovations can be somewhat common at TIFF, but not necessarily in the Ryerson Theater where “Call Me” had its Canadian debut. The mandatory ones are usually for the gala premieres at Roy Thompson Hall and over the years this pundit has seen a few very deserving ones (“Silver Linings Playbook”) in that venue and some absolute head scratchers (“Mandela,” “Deepwater Horizon,” etc.). This audience’s reaction, however, was genuine. One woman in my row was audibly crying at the end and there were cries of “Bravo!” when the first credits rolled (it’s worth noting Guadagnino starts to display the credits on the final shot while it’s still emotionally in progress).
During a Q&A after the screening Guadagnino revealed that Sufjan Stevens surprised him by submitting three songs for the movie and that they listened to them on the set. He also note that “Call Me” was the fasted film he’d ever edited. His previous movies took about a year to finesse, but “Call Me” was finished a month after production wrapped (July, 2016). Hammer credited the month he and Chalamet spent before filming for helping to cement their character’s strong chemistry and Chalamet was grateful to have the novel as a reference.
It goes without saying that they hype after Sundance (and a lesser point, Berlin) hasn’t helped “Call Me” with some (cough, male, cough) media members who had to wait to see it at TIFF or a few select few private screenings over the past few weeks (again, emphasis on “some”). Why they thought this was another “Moonlight” is beyond me. They are very different films even if they feature gay subject matter. If anything, “Call Me” is closer in tone and story to “Brokeback Mountain” and even then it’s a stretch. So, yes, there is a slight backlash (Ahem, “Why y’all so jealous? Get your ass to Park City or accept you’re gonna see movies later than others.”), but we’re still confident a substantial number of Academy members will give the picture the Best Picture nomination votes it needs. Now will Chalamet and Guadagnino get the Best Actor and Director nominations they deserve? That’s gonna be a battle SPC may need more help with than usual.
“Call Me By Your Name” opens in limited release on Nov. 24.