Emma (Tilda Swinton) abandons native Russia for Italy and love. Husband Tancredi (Pippo Delbono) is part of a successful family business. They have three children. Wily patriarch (Gabriele Ferzetti) leaves Tancredi and his son, Edoardo (Flavio Parenti) in charge prior to death. Other son, Gianluca (Mattia Zaccaro) watches idly by. Their sister, Betta (Alba Rohrwacher) confides her lesbian sexuality to a totally understanding mom. Inspired by her daughter’s courage to know who she is, “no longer Emma” embarks on her own deadly quest for self.
What fun: Edoardo’s best friend, Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini) is a superb chef. He aspires to open a restaurant in the country (“people will have to climb up to try my dishes.” Edoardo hopes to have his pal for breakfast, lunch and dinner. His convenient betrothal to Eva (Diane Fleri) is greeted with a frozen stare from the culinary expert. Soon, there’s another hitch. Emma and Antonio heat each other to the boiling point and devour one another voraciously. Day-off Thursdays become hours-long trysts.
For a time, father and son are distracted by selling out the firm to an Indian (Waris Ahluwalia). Curiously (unbelievably) Tancredi remains faithful despite frequent trips abroad and a cooling wife.
The table is literally set for a family dinner that no one will forget. Who knew what havoc homemade soup could cause?
Director/writer Luca Guadagnino has crafted a minor masterpiece. Employing more revealing looks than telling dialogue, (superbly captured by cinematographer Yorick Le Saux), the minimalist narrative technique compels at nearly every turn. (An important absence from the funeral sounds a slightly false note.)
What more could be said than with the shuddering tears of ever-faithful servant Ida (Maria Paiato, smaller role but in the same league as Swinton’s bravura performance)?
Precious little spoken, but John Adams’ cell-based soundscape (notably while Emma shadows Antonio in Sanremo prior to tasting his most special off-menu item) is perfectly attuned to Guadagnino’s vision and technique. The marriage of music and image seldom gets better than this. JWR