Call Me By Your Name | 2017
Luca Guadagnino’s sun-drenched coming-of-age romance saw veteran film-maker James Ivory (of the Merchant-Ivory directorial team responsible for so many quintessentially British films including A Room With A View, Howards End and The Remains Of The Day) finally win an Oscar, for his adaptation of André Aciman’s novel.
It’s set in 1983 in the far north of Italy, and filmed around Crema, Moscazzano and Bergamo in Lombardy.
The main setting is the estate of the Perlman family. It looks mouth-wateringly inviting, but this time I’m afraid I’m not able to say: “and you can stay here…”. The villa is not a hotel or a guest-house but a private home and it’s surrounded by high walls.
It’s the Villa Albergoni, 3, Via Montodine, just south of Via Roma, in Moscazzano, a village about five miles south of Crema. The villa was put up for sale in 2018 for an asking price of €1.7 million. There’s little to see from the street, apart from the entrance, but if you missed the chance to buy it, you can comfort yourself knowing that it wasn’t such a bargain – there are really no peach trees on the estate and that plunge pool was added just for the film.
In fact, the villa was specially decorated for the film by Violante Visconti di Modrone, a relative of Luchino Visconti, coincidentally director of Death In Venice, a ravishingly beautiful film of homoerotic longings from a very different era.
When Perlman Sr (Michael Stuhlbarg), an academic specialising in classical antiquity, invites American research assistant Oliver (Armie Hammer) to stay at the villa or a few weeks, there’s initially resentment from his 17-year-old son, Elio (Timothée Chalamet), who’s obliged to give up his bedroom to the interloper.
Nevertheless, Elio dutifully takes Oliver into the nearest town to open a bank account for his stay.
The town is Crema, and it’s in the Piazza del Duomo in front of Crema Cathedral that, over drinks, Oliver asks what it is people do around here. As you may guess from the carefully angled shots, there’s not really a bar here.
The next time they cycle into town, it’s to Moscazzano, and Piazza Gambazocchi, where Elio watches as the charming Oliver joins a game of cards with the locals. And this bar is real – it’s Bar Belvedere, Piazza Gambazocchi, 7.
Although tentative signals are exchanged between Elio and Oliver, they prove elusive and ambiguous. When the beats of the Psychedelic Furs impel Oliver to a flamboyant turn on the dancefloor at an alfresco disco party, Elio slips of with his kind-of-girlfriend Marzia (Esther Garrel) for a late-night swim.
They travel quite a way for it. The spot is Laghetto dei Riflessi, a small quarry lake in the Palata Menasciutto Nature Reserve, just to the southwest of Ricengo, though this is about three miles north of Crema.
Perlman Sr invites Oliver and Elio to join him on a trip to an archaeological site on Lake Garda, where precious artefacts are being recovered from the waters.
This is Sirmione, a promontory at the southern tip of the lake. The brick columns and stone ruins here are Grottoes of Catullus, ruins of a Roman villa dating from about the time BC was turning into AD.
The awkwardness between Elio and Oliver is defused when Elio bravely declares a truce and the three go off for a sunset dip at nearby Spiaggia Giamaica (Jamaica Beach).
A turning point comes when Elio is read the story of a Knight who’s unable to declare his love for a Princess and is faced with the stark choice “Speak or die”.
As he strolls around the toweringly heroic WWI Memorial on Piazza Vittorio Emanuele III in Pandino, a few miles northwest of Crema, Elio chooses to speak, though Oliver quickly shuts the conversation down.
Despite the rebuff, Elio takes Oliver to his special place, where he goes to read and where the water running down from the mountains is freezing. This is Fontanile Quarantina, a quiet nature reserve near Capralba, northeast of Pandino. Elio’s dogged persistence pays off and in the meadow here there’s the first physical expression of their feelings. Again, it’s the cautious Oliver who pulls back.
On the way home, the pair stops at Cascina San Giorgio, on the tiny open space on Via Bosco at the southern end of Corte Palasio on SP124 – southwest of Crema toward Lodi, where they ask for a drink of water and are somewhat taken aback by the picture of Il Duce.
Feeling he’s given way to temptation, Oliver chooses to distance himself and the frustrated Elio turns to Marzia, meeting up with her opposite Crema's Duomo in the colonnade running along the west side of Piazza Duomo at Via XX Settembre.
Elio eventually leaves a note for Oliver and their midnight meeting ends in the way it was always intended to, with a slow pan away to the window….
In Crema, the next day, Oliver – who seems inordinately sensitive about their age difference – apologises for “what happened last night”. In front of the newsagent at the southwest corner of Piazza Duomo, Elio is quick to reassure him.
So much time has passed that by now, Oliver’s time in Italy is nearly up. He’s off to spend a couple of days in Bergamo, a city about 30 miles north of Crema, before returning to the USA.
Everyone agrees it’s a good idea for Elio to accompany him, and they leave by coach from Piazza XXV Aprile, in front of the Baroque Chiesa di Montodine (Church of Montodine) in Montodine, a small town east of Moscazzano.
Now the floodgates have been opened, the two enjoy a crazily exhilarating few days in and around the city.
The breathtaking waterfall among the mountains is actually much further north. It’s Le Cascate del Serio, about two miles northeast of Valbondione, and the highest waterfall in Italy. The falls are formed by three main steps on the Serio River, 166, 74 and 75 metres tall, altogether resulting in a drop of 315 m
Don’t expect to find that spectacular cascade all the time. A dam above the falls regulates the flow, releasing water for less than an hour, only four or five times a year. Plan ahead.
In Bergamo itself, the pensione at which Elio and Oliver stay was the, sadly now closed, Hotel Agnello d'Oro, Via Gombito, 22, at Via San Pancrazio. Keep an eye on it – surely such a beautiful location overlooking Fontana del Gombito just northeast of the cathedral is not going to stay vacant for long.
The two enjoy one deliriously drunken night in the Piazza Padre Reginaldo Giuliani, in front of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore where, once again Oliver succumbs to the lure of the Psychedelic Furs while poor Elio throws up.
It’s all over too quickly and Oliver has to leave. The most understatedly heartwrenching train farewell since David Lean’s Brief Encounter, is supposedly at the station of 'Clusone', but is actually Pizzighettone, much further south and closer to Crema.
Elio is given a ride home by his mother and it’s in front of Bar Belvedere in Moscazzano that he has a reconciliation with Marzia who turns out to be remarkably understanding, agreeing they should stay friends forever.
The final shot sees Chalamet honourably joining the ranks of actors including Bob Hoskins (The Long Good Friday) and Michael Redgrave (The Go-Between) who been given the unenviable task of carrying the emotional weight of the film’s ending with one long, final close-up.