Monday, 27 May 2024

Escapades

with Luca Guadagnino

FANTASTIC MAN - LUCA is wearing a dove-grey cashmere-and wool jumper by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA COUTURE.

Curious to see how it feels to be ridiculously busy, director Luca Guadagnino, 46, set himself the challenge of making two big films in one year. One is a remake of cult classic ‘Suspiria’. The other is the spectacularly romantic ‘Call Me by Your Name’, in which actors Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet while away a lazy summer in 1980s Italy and fall madly in love with each other, with the happy support of the family around them. Meanwhile, Luca started his first commission as an interior designer, for a villa on Lake Como. He’s also designing a hotel in Berlin, producing films for several directors and loves to cook for friends at home in Crema, Italy. He claims that, most of all, his favourite thing to do is nothing – as if the lauded auteur of ‘I Am Love’ and ‘A Bigger Splash’ would have time for that! For the start of our conversation we meet on a Sunday morning in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

From Fantastic Man n° 26 — 2017
Text by GERT JONKERS
Photography by MARK PECKMEZIAN
Styling by STUART WILLIAMSON

FANTASTIC MAN - LUCA is wearing a dove-grey cashmere-and wool jumper by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA COUTURE.

BREAKFAST
IN AMSTERDAM

Where the filmmaker speaks in beautifully sprawling sentences of his effective diet, love, Disney, music and masturbation.

GERT — You’re speaking at an event for psychoanalysts today. What is that?

LUCA — I’ll tell you a funny story. My desire to be in Amsterdam was so strong that my unconscious was working very efficiently. Seven months ago I was approached by this psychoanalytical society who want to screen ‘A Bigger Splash’ followed by a discussion with their students. I’m drawn to psychoanalysis because that’s how I approach my work, successfully or not. So I said yes, I booked a room and a flight, and three days ago they sent me this confirmation email and the subject says ‘Luca in Hamburg.’ Literally, for seven months I’d been in contact with the psychoanalytical society in Hamburg and all the time I read ‘Amsterdam.’ Crazy. Crazy! This has never happened to me. Like, I would never jump on a train in the wrong direction. Never. So here I am, in Amsterdam.

That’s incredible. And you said you were especially looking forward to staying here at Hotel Okura. Why?

That’s a romantic story that yet has to happen. I was here two years ago when Sasha Waltz was performing at the Royal whatever theatre, I think it was ‘Roméo et Juliette’ – very beautiful. We were thinking of having her as the choreographer for ‘Suspiria’, which didn’t happen in the end. But I fell in love with this hotel and its kind of Japanese, 1960s cool. I wanted to come back with my partner, Ferdi, for a romantic weekend, but he couldn’t make it in the end.

Who is your partner?

Ferdinando is a wonderful, real, real, real Milanese guy. I like northern Italian people. He’s a great film director. I can send you the link to his first movie, that I was one of the producers of, about the Italian poet Antonia Pozzi, who killed herself in the late 1930s because she couldn’t bear the weight of life. It’s an incredibly beautiful film.

FANTASTIC MAN - Luca_guadagnino_3_fm26
Luca seen in his expansive entrance room at home in Crema, where he likes to work and read the morning paper.

How is it for a movie director to date a movie director?

Interesting. A lot of people ask us: ‘How can you be in the same room?’ First of all I’m attracted to artists in general, but the personality that attracts me most is that of the director. I’ve never been fascinated by actors, not even remotely. Sure, we all have our voyeuristic moments of ‘Mmmmm’ when we see a good-looking actor. But do I want to talk with an actor about life? No, thank you. But with directors, yes, always. I remember I was completely enamoured with people like Bertolucci or Fassbender. Not just because of their movies; I wanted to know everything about them. I haven’t had many relationships, but the ones I had were always with directors. I’ve learnt there is no such thing as competitiveness between artists. Because my vision and their vision are so individual, they cannot collide. The last thing I’ll say is this: my real secret wish is that Ferdinando becomes very successful and rich so that I can retire and spend his money. You know, to cultivate a garden for both of us. I have no ambition to be a big director. Not at all.

You are a big director, with a ton of projects coming up.

But my dream is to retire. That’s not a one-liner; it’s true. To spend every year of your life with the abstraction of making a film, with a crew of 200 people and their passions and their stupid priorities, the pressure of having to deliver, the pressure of spending other people’s money and having to be nasty because you don’t want to give up your integrity? And then to show your film to the world and to have to talk about it and repeat your answer to the same questions again and again… I used to see making films as a kind of paradise and I now realise it’s kind of a hell, to be honest.

It’s interesting what you say about not wanting to hang out socially with actors.

Well, yes, because their success may lie in their lack of personality and their possibility of being clay. I remember when I did my first film, ‘Melissa P.’, I was so happy that we got Geraldine Chaplin to play the grandmother, so we set up a meeting and this very teeny, tiny woman, very lovely, says to me, ‘Tell me what I need to do because I’m nothing without you.’ And in a way that wasn’t sexy for me. You know? I was, like, ‘ugh!’

Because they give it all to you, and the next day they’re on another set, acting out a completely different person?

Exactly. There’s this great book, ‘Notes on Cinematography’ by Robert Bresson, who says, ‘Don’t go for actors, go for reality.’ He always used people from real life as his actors. He probably stole their personality for the purpose of his films, and never worked with the same actor more than twice. That’s interesting. Says me, who mostly works with established actors!

Well, yes, and often the same actors.

But everything I just said doesn’t apply to Tilda Swinton, if that’s who you’re thinking of, because Tilda is a true filmmaker, a real cineaste. She’s definitely a real collaborator.

Why is it that you keep returning to Tilda as the lead in your films?

I think the most simple answer is: we are family. I like family. There’s something about a group of people that are bonded by invisible threads. And also, I have so much fun working with Tilda that I can’t even call it ‘working.’ The ideas that come out of being with her are incredible. She’s so invested. And she’s so funny. I don’t only do movies with her. I do a lot of stuff with her. We always say we want to do a zingarata. It’s from a movie from the ’70s in which four friends go strolling around, getting lost by car and having a lovely zingarata – going around like gypsies.

So there’s Tilda in many of your films, and somehow there’s always a swimming pool.

And that is probably because – and I’m doing some cheap ‘Reader’s Digest’ psychoanalysis here – I can’t swim. I cannot swim. If I jump in a pool or in the sea and I can’t touch the ground, I will drown.

That’s why a lot of characters in your films die in a pool?

That, and I have a fear of snakes, so you see snakes in my films too.

My god, they are completely psychoanalytical exercises!

Originally there’s a big pool in ‘Call Me by Your Name’, in the book, but for the film we shrunk it to this teeny tiny fountain, like a drop of water. It’s a safe watery environment. ‘Call Me by Your Name’ is a gentle film, a kind film, a movie about the capacity of effusiveness and the transmission of knowledge, and I didn’t want an ominous pool in it.

You’re right; it’s such a gentle film, so warm and tender. I read a review from Sundance and it was compared to ‘Brokeback Mountain’ and ‘Moonlight’, but they’re both quite sad films, and yours is so happy.

I totally, consciously, didn’t want to cast any kind of shadow of sadness or conflict over the story. And that’s why the making of the movie was so complicated and took so long. Every time we approached people for money the question was: ’How do you hook your audience if there’s no conflict? It’s not believable that these boys have no problems with their affair and they can just get away with it like that. Try to rewrite the script. Maybe the mother can be mean?’ So I actually went back to the script and made it even more clear and obvious that the mother was benign. So the financing process was very laborious: a little money here, a little money there. The film was made with the tiniest budget you can possibly imagine. Everybody was essentially working for free.

It doesn’t show.

At least we didn’t get into this thing of ‘Oh, look at the boy. He has a love affair with another boy and he’s faced with all kinds of obstacles.’ I can’t relate to that kind of thinking. I don’t want to underestimate the suffering and violence from homophobia, but I also don’t want to make a film that endorses this ideology of oppression and fear, whether it’s from the world outside or from the tendency towards self-victimisation within the LGBT community. I hope that if you disempower hatred, the oppression might go away.

Isn’t that a fantasy? How can you disempower homophobia?

A great example: Truman Capote, who was this tiny squeaky-voiced queen in a bar in Martha’s Vineyard, drinking whiskey like a truck driver, was addressed in a homophobic way by a big guy. Truman punches him in the face and the next morning they become best friends. And that was in, like, 1958. ‘Call Me by Your Name’ is, I think, less about that, and more about family. It’s a family film, for and about family. It’s the closest thing to a Disney movie that I’ve done so far. It’s ‘Bambi’. What is ‘Bambi’? Little Bambi loses the mother and becomes an adult and finds love and his father, and the spirit of his mother and the spirit of the woods keep guiding him. It’s Bambi’s guidance through the generations that you find in ‘Call Me by Your Name’. Both parents have a way to address a transmission of knowledge to the boy that is both direct and indirect, which I find beautiful and endearing. By the way, the classic Disney films have of course been filled with queer identity. Think of Tyrus Wong, the Chinese guy who was the great painter of Bambi’s landscapes. He made this Austrian, semi-Nazi ecological identity into that gorgeous queer Disney forest.

Would you ever want to make a Disney movie?

I would do ‘Bambi’! If I’d be granted complete control I would love to make a Disney movie. But I’m not going to contradict myself. Between that and retirement, I’d still prefer to retire.

FANTASTIC MAN - Luca is seen here at the entrance of his home located in Crema, Italy.

Do you have a garden?

I so do not have a garden. I can’t afford one. Maybe one day.

Please tell me about your diet – when we were piling up our plates at the buffet you mentioned your successful diet.

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays you’re allowed only proteins. Yoghurt in the morning, prosciutto at midday, then chickpeas and prosciutto the rest of the day, and then fish. At five o’clock you want to die from disgust. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays you go for a slice of brown bread with honey for breakfast, then a little fruit, then you can have a little pasta and vegetables and again fruit, and then fish. And on Sundays you can eat whatever. It’s good. It works. I don’t smoke, drink or do drugs; food is my only compulsion. When I’m working, when I’m nervous, I just think ‘Eat, eat, eat.’ Last year I was completely swollen and devastated. I had to stop.

You like to cook, don’t you?

I love to cook.

Is it a challenge for a food lover to stick to a diet?

I usually don’t eat when I cook. I like to cook for other people. Sometimes I invite people for dinner but I don’t sit at the table because I have to cook.

How masochistic is that?

No, I think it’s discipline.

Altruism then?

I think it’s very boring to eat something you’ve picked, bought, brought home, smelt, cut, cooked, boiled, fried – by that point I’m over it. I’d much rather concentrate on the perfect execution of a plate than have to actually eat it.

Maybe it’s like going to a cinema to see your own film.

Imagine! So boring! Still, after 20 years, I can’t be bothered to see my first film again. You just see all the mistakes. You know, my big concern about ‘Suspiria’ – now that I’ve shot it and we’re editing it, putting the sound to it and watching it a thousand times – is: will it be scary? I don’t find it scary anymore. It’s my big, big, big concern. When they made ‘The Exorcist’, did they feel any fear when they were watching the edits?

‘Suspiria’ is a remake, isn’t it? Is the original scary?

You have never seen the original film? That’s funny.

I know very little about cinema.

I like that. That’s very good. Will you promise me that you will not see the original ‘Suspiria’ before you see mine?

Okay, yes. Promised.

There’s a lot of contempt for the idea of me remaking ‘Suspiria’. The original is such a cult classic; people say you can’t remake it. I’d be scared to remake a classic. It’s like recording a cover version of an amazing song, like ‘Let It Be’ or ‘Return of the Grievous Angel’ or ‘Do You Wanna Funk’. Oh, no. Look at painting. The nativity scene was painted a thousand times. Brueghel painted what his father painted. Every story has already been told. Scheherazade and the Bible say it all. There’s no originality in the canon of storytelling; it’s the point of view that counts. Hitchcock made ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ twice, once in the ’30s and once in the ’50s. Was he lacking ideas, or did he actually do the greatest thing a cineaste could do? He had a point of view. So I love the idea of doing a remake and focusing on the perspective. When I was approached to remake ‘La Piscine’ as ‘A Bigger Splash’, I hesitated. I had no initial desire to make that film. I saw the original film once: horrendous. In the case of ‘Suspiria’, it’s different. I am 46 and I worshipped Dario Argento from when I was ten years old. He, Bertolucci and Hitchcock were my heroes. I remember as a teenager in Palermo, a colleague of my mother called our house to say that she’d seen Dario Argento go into a restaurant. I ran, and there he was, eating with a beautiful lady, and I stood outside the restaurant looking at him for the entire meal, like a stalker. And ‘Suspiria’ was especially an obsession for me. I was eleven when I saw the poster of the woman and the severed head and the blood flowing, and it made a big impression. Then a few years later I saw the movie, and I was obsessed and wanted to make my version of it. My mother still has the notebook in which I made these drawings of posters for my remake: ‘Luca Guadagnino’s ‘Suspiria’.’ When we bought the rights for the remake ten years ago I felt humble. I didn’t have the guts to do it, so we tried to make it with another director, my friend David Gordon Green, but that never happened, and then ‘I Am Love’ became a nice art-house success and people said, ‘Why don’t you do it yourself?’ I got back that fever-y thing. So, I think a remake is the most respectful way to celebrate a film. I wouldn’t be me if there wasn’t Dario Argento’s ‘Suspiria’. It’s me saying ‘Thank you Dario.’ And I think it’s possible to dream another version of what Dario dreamt back then. But there’s a lot of anger about this film. A lot of hate online. ‘How dare he!’ Tilda, Dakota Johnson, even the involvement of Jessica Harper from the original cast didn’t make the haters calmer. Only when we announced that Thom Yorke is making the soundtrack did they warm up a bit.

Music heals everything.

The music for my two new films surpassed all my expectations: Thom for ‘Suspiria’ and Sufjan Stevens for ‘Call Me by Your Name’.

I love Sufjan Stevens. How did you get him involved?

In the book there’s a narrator, I think it’s the character of Elio talking, but I can’t stand movies with the voice of a character talking, ugh! I do like a narrator in a 19th century
novel tradition, but who could do that? I could have done it myself if my English pronunciation wasn’t so Italian. So I thought I needed someone who has his own identity as an artist. Sufjan Stevens! He’s young-ish in terms of the character’s age, and he’s now. So I wrote an email to his manager who immediately said that would never happen, Sufjan doesn’t care about these things. But I insisted and insisted and insisted and one day I managed to set up a five-minute phone call with Sufjan. He’s super shy, and he didn’t want to do the narrative, but he said he could make us a song. I mean – please! I wanted to use his song ‘Futile Devices’, which he agreed to rearrange for us. I didn’t hear back from Sufjan for about six months, and then he came up with these two new songs. I mean, this kind of stuff only happens once in your life. Not to just get two Sufjan songs, but to get these two songs. They’re so beautiful.

Have you met him?

Well, then I wrote him and invited him over to my house to see the film when it was finished, as he was coming to Italy anyway. So, the doorbell rings, and this stunningly beautiful man is at the door. I mean, I’d seen pictures of him, but in reality he is beyond handsome! Those eyes!

Do you remember that I wrote about my visit to the set of ‘Call Me by Your Name’ and you talked about the peach scene from the book, but when I saw the film I found out that I remembered that storyline all wrong.

Ah yes, you thought Oliver has a wank with a ripe peach, but it’s Elio.

Exactly. It’s such a hot scene.

I was so scared to film that scene. I didn’t believe that you could put a peach on your cock and just come. We were already shooting the film and I just couldn’t make up my mind if we’d cut that scene or not. I was afraid I was being a prude, so I thought I had to at least try it for myself. So one day, after lunch, I got a peach, went to the loo, took the pit from the peach, masturbated and… I can tell you, it works very well. André Aciman was right in his book. So I went to Timmy and said: ‘I’ve changed my mind about the peach scene; I think it can work. You should try it for yourself.’ And he rolls his eyes, like, ‘Duh. Of course I tried it, and of course it works.’

I’m glad to hear Timothée prepared properly for his role.

Timmy and Armie are both incredible in that scene. The aggression, the physicality, the fragility. We had this amazing director of photography, Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, and after we shot that scene I turned around and he’s weeping. Those things happen very rarely, when that moment of performance is so direct, so raw and unbiased. No smoke and mirrors. I feel like this movie is the closest thing I ever did to an unfiltered, raw use of the material, without any artifice. The thing that excited me when I started making films was the possibility of artifice, which is now the thing that interests me the least.

A turn-around revelation!

Maybe that can be the topic of conversation the next time we meet?

TEA
AT HOME

We reunite a week later for lunch and tea at Luca’s home. He lives in a stunning apartment in super friendly Crema, one hour east of Milan.

You said you don’t drink or smoke. You just want to stay in control?

Unconsciously, yes. Probably. Wanting control is a characteristic of mine. It comes in handy as a director. Yeah, but when it spills over into life, it can be a little bit too much. I’m the tutor of my 16-year-old niece; her parents gave me the responsibility of raising her. She studies in Parma and she comes here every weekend, and I’m very strict with her. We’re very open with each other, but I’m very strict. I don’t know why. I wish I was her lovely uncle, but I’m not. I’m a bitch.

How is it for you now that ‘Call Me by Your Name’ is finished, but it’s still waiting for its November release? Aren’t you dying to hear people’s reactions?

We’re doing press viewings. We showed it in Sydney yesterday. Sorry for the vanity, but can I show you some of the reactions that the distributor sent me?

Please do, I love vanity. [Hands over his phone] ‘Super romantic.’ ‘A queer classic.’ ‘One of the best films of the decade.’

It’s nice. The reaction at Sundance was so strong and powerful, it made me immediately confident about this film.

It’s exciting.

Super exciting! I’m glad, for the effort we made. You saw the set; it was a teeny tiny production, but it seems to resonate in a deep way and it goes beyond the boundaries of sexual preference. And also, it’s exciting to witness the development of a young actor like Timothée, to watch him become his own thing. He’s so spectacularly great in the film. And working with Armie to get him out of his comfort zone and still see him so much in command of his own actions…

Was Armie Hammer hard to get out of his comfort zone?

It’s funny; I wanted him for the role, and we share the same agency in LA, so he got the script and then I got a message that Armie wanted to talk to me. So he says, ‘I think the script is great but I’m scared that it goes so far beyond what I’ve done in the past.’ I said, ‘That’s great news that you’re scared, because fear goes with desire, so that’s perfect. Hug your fear and jump with it!’ And then he says, ‘Okay, I’m in.’ That was fantastic. A few minutes later my agent calls me and says, ‘What did you do? I didn’t want to tell you beforehand, but I knew he was going to pass.’

That’s hilarious. Where did you learn the art of diplomacy?

I’m the youngest of three children, so you learn to observe and become a strategist to get what you want. I’ve always been good at avoiding trouble. And I learnt that making films is about how you talk to people. The most important thing is: who is the person in front of you? So I think it’s because I’m curious about people that I can detect their essence. That’s my job.

Would you fancy going into politics?

I’d much rather be left alone and not be put under the scrutiny of the public eye… I’m not that narcissistic. My narcissism is to talk about flowers rather than anything else. Also, let’s think about sexy politicians. Let’s talk about Emmanuel Macron. I think he’s so sexy! My dream is to see him naked. I think it’d be beautiful to look at him naked. The guy clearly is a narcissist. He enjoys this incredible attention upon him and he lives for that. That fuels his energy. I don’t have that at all. Do you?

Oh no.

And that horrendous clothing politicians have to wear! You have to be what Italians call grisaglia. Even if you go for the most fantastic Raf Simons for Jil Sander business suit, and only wear that, it’s still a boring look. You can’t wear Comes des Garçons and run a country, can you?

Do you wear Comme?

Sometimes. I regret not buying two coats of their ‘flat’ womenswear collection from 2012. I had some money at the time and could have afforded it. It would have been fantastic to have them.

Do you have quite a wardrobe?

I do. I like to collect clothes. Sometimes I buy them, or designers give them to me. Whenever I get something I try to opt for the most flamboyant, extreme thing, and I wear it once, like a wedding gown. I have this wardrobe filled with extravaganzas.

I feel like I know you as quite a lowkey dresser. Navy chinos, white trainers, crew-neck jumper…

That’s how I dress usually. I remember I was in the jury of the Venice Film Festival and I wore blue trousers and a pink jacket from Raf for Jil Sander. You should have seen the faces of these cinema people! ‘What’s that faggot wearing?’ I was awarded the prize for the worst-dressed man at the festival. Oh, you know who’s watching ‘Call Me by Your Name’ just now? Raf Simons, in New York. I saw the guest list for the screening. Also, Nan Bush. Who is that again?

Isn’t she Bruce Weber’s wife?

Ah, yes. I’m curious to hear what Raf thinks of it.

When will you know?

Don’t know, maybe he’ll tell the PR after.

Let’s hope so. Your house is so gorgeous, by the way. And I love those lamps.

Nice, no? They’re by Carlo Moretti. They’re from ‘A Bigger Splash’. That was a lesson I learnt from Bertolucci. The first time I went to his house, I looked at the sofa and I said, ‘That’s from ‘Luna’, correct?’ Yes! Every piece of furniture in his house comes from one of his films. Which isn’t completely true about my house, but many things come from my films. You can get the best furniture from film sets. I just loved these lamps and usually there’s a budget for props, so I said to the set designers, ‘Just make sure you get these Moretti lamps so that I can keep them afterwards.’

How did you get the commission for the interior design of the house in Como?

Federico Marchetti, the founder of YOOX, is a good friend. I met him about ten years ago. I love to talk to him about business. How do you foresee online shopping like he did? I’m fascinated! And then I always wanted to design houses. Refinement is something I’m drawn to. I enjoy decorating my own houses. One day Federico asked me to come and see the building he bought in Como, and he asked me what I would do with it. So I put together my very first interior-design mood board, and he loved it. So there we are. We’re working on it since last September. I love it. Going to the construction site, pretending you’re the architect, is super scary. I’ve always felt like a sort of con man, a hoax. I never studied film. I just said ‘I’m a director.’ Now I’m an interior designer. You just say you are.

FANTASTIC MAN - Luca_guadagnino_5_fm26

What’s the most peculiar thing about what you’re designing for the house?

I think we’re pushing the envelope of invisible luxury to the max. It’s devastatingly precise on the details, it’s crazy.

What kind of details? Like, trying to conduct the exact sound of a door closing?

Yes, or how the light hits a surface. A specific colour of a portion of the room is reflected in the furniture on a specific moment of the day. There’s a lot of my passions in it: modernism, Brazil, patterns…

Is it part of an Italian tradition of design?

Absolutely. I think that Italy, for all its operatic showmanship, if you look closely, was probably the most advanced, cutting-edge laboratory in the world in terms of 20th-century art and design. If you compare 1950s cinema, art, design and architecture from Italy to that of the rest of the world, there is no match. Sorry. Let’s talk about Enzo Mari for three seconds. His lessons in design were ground breaking in every possible way, and they’re still unsurpassed. That’s the Italy I’m referring to.

Didn’t your previous prime minister, Matteo Renzi, try to revive those artistic heydays?

Where did you get that? He was terrible. I hated him: a 40-something, ignorant, ineffective TV-generation person. He’s always been a starfucker, trying to be nice to the glitz and blitz and the fashion world. He thought that’d be good for his image. I think politicians should practise the art of humbleness, but that’s been completely lost, unfortunately. Maybe Angela Merkel does it, but her problem is that she’s biased, like all German politicians. But at least you get the idea that she’s working for the benefit of the community. Did you read Yanis Varoufakis’s new book?

Not yet.

It’s called ‘Adults in the Room’, his memoir of six months as the Greek minister of finance. He recorded every conversation with everybody, from Schäuble to Merkel to Dijsselbloem. It’s beautiful. And he’s sexy. A big-nosed Greek stallion in flowery shirts.

He was dragged out of the European boardroom, tarred and feathered. Wasn’t he a bit of a fuck-up?

Oh no, he’s a great professor of economics. He’s considered one of the greatest thinkers in the world. Read the book. His one problem is that he and his girlfriend posed for these horrendous pictures in ‘Paris Match’. That was so bad. He regrets that. I’m sure he’s a narcissist.

FANTASTIC MAN - LUCA is wearing a dove-grey cashmere-andwool jumper and grey wool jogging trousers, both by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA COUTURE, charcoal-grey cashmere socks by FALKE and navy leather trainers with black rubber soles by JOHN LOBB.

Let’s talk about ‘Suspiria’.

We’re almost finished editing it. We’ll have the first viewing next week in LA. As it stands now it’s very long: 2 hours and 50 minutes. I wish I could have made it shorter, but my movies are character-based and you need time to breathe. ‘I Am Love’ is 2 hours. ‘Call Me by Your Name’ is 2:10. ‘A Bigger Splash’ is 2:05.

Your next film might be four hours.

I’m afraid so. I can’t really help it.

Can’t you tell from the script?

No, you can’t. If the script says: ‘Gert sits on a chair,’ there’s no way to tell how long that should last. There’s a scene in ‘Call Me by Your Name’ where Timmy sits on the steps of the villa. That’s it. It lasts a minute and a half. If you make it shorter, you take off a lot of texture. You’re trying to get into a mood. It’s not just a story that needs to be told. What’s the story of ‘Call Me by Your] Name’? Summer, boy meets boy, boy fucks girl, boy fucks boy, father talks to boy. That’s the story, but for me it’s a film about family. Bambi. What could be a good way to revamp ‘Bambi’ in your opinion?

I have no idea.

How to remake ‘Bambi’ – that’s maddening me these days. I mentioned it to my agent and now he’s set up a meeting with Disney. They want to see me in two weeks. I need to solve this.

I’ve read there’s been one remake, or a kind of sequel: ‘Bambi II’. It went straight to video. In fact it’s one of the last films ever released on VHS.

Really? When was that? The 1980s?

No, this was 2006. Do you still see a lot of films?

I don’t see much current cinema. The pattern of filmmaking has become so repetitive: I understand a movie after five minutes. In order not to be bored, I skip new films but I like to see old films. Last night my father and I watched ‘Days of Wine and Roses’. Have you seen any good Hollywood films recently?

Let me see – I keep a list of the movies that I’ve seen.

Give me your list!

[I look for the list on my phone] I can’t find this year’s list. Maybe I haven’t gone to the movies much this year? Do you want to hear my list from 2016?

Yes, please.

‘Hail, Caesar!’.
Hated it.

‘The Revenant’.
Hated it. It’s so bad.

‘Youth’, what was that again?
Michael Caine in the Swiss sanatorium. Horrendous.

Oh yes, terrible. ‘Carol’ I liked.
Really? They offered me that film.

‘The Hateful Eight’, ugh!
I liked it. What didn’t you like about it?

I thought it was just a never-ending shoot-out with tons of blood. ‘The Lobster’, I hated that one.

Hated! Ter-ri-ble. Such a cynical attitude. Hated it.

‘Star Wars’.
Meh.

‘Truth’.
That’s with Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford, about the journalist? I haven’t seen it.

I liked it. ‘Strike a Pose’, did you see that when it came out?

No, what is it?

A great documentary about what became of Madonna’s backup dancers from her Blond Ambition World Tour. ‘Lo and Behold’, what’s that again?

Ah, the beautiful documentary by Werner Herzog about the internet. That’s so good.

‘Captain Fantastic’.
No, no, no, no, no!

‘Nocturnal Animals’.
Too much in your face. Also, I don’t buy the turmoil of Amy Adams. Why is she in despair when she reads her husband’s fantasy? There’s no harm in that, I find. I kind of like the last scene, when he doesn’t show up in the restaurant. Very cruel.

‘La La Land’.
Ugh, so bad. Cheesy.

‘Moonlight’.
I cried. A very impassioned film.

That was the list.
You didn’t see ‘Manchester by the Sea’? That’s a very good one.

No. I’ll try to see it. Is there any news from the viewing in New York? Is it finished?

Let me check my email. Oh, look, here’s a message. ‘Reactions of the audience were extremely good.’

What did Raf think?
It doesn’t say.

DINNER
THAT EVENING

Over a delicious dinner at Naso Rosso – a killer tip when it comes to fine dining in Crema – conversation turns to test screening and terrorism.

Last week we said we’d talk about the concept of filming without artifice, and the freedom of seeing what happens. Unless you’d rather talk about something else.

Let’s talk about Piet Oudolf, the garden designer. He’s my hero. I want to meet Piet Oudolf. I’ve read all his books on gardening. He’s such a great character. Have you met him?

I have.
How is he?

He’s fantastic. He’s so convincing and charming and funny.

My dream is to make enough money to get a house with a garden and hire Mr. Oudolf to do the garden. I’m dying to go to his garden in Hummelo in the Netherlands. People know him from the perennial grasses, but in truth he uses a lot of flowers and trees. Have you been to Dries van Noten’s garden? I’d love to go there too. His garden is, like, ‘Wow!’ Really, gardening is the only thing I’m interested in. Oh, look, here’s a message from Raf.

What does he say?
‘Hey, is this still your mobile number? X Raf Simons.’ [Luca replies to confirm] ‘Luca Luca Luca Luca Luca Luca Luca. I have no words. Your movie is a masterpiece. We talk soon. Love.’ Oh, that’s nice from Raf, him being so dry as a person. Cool! Maybe he can be my testimonial of the campaign.

Why, I wonder, does ‘Call Me by Your Name’ come out in November if it’s been ready for about a year now?

It’s being distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, which is one of the classiest distributors in the business. For a director, that’s something to put on your chest. And they bought the rights for the whole world, which is very rare. Very prestigious. They do all the Almodóvar films, Haneke, Woody Allen. And they decided to release it in November, which is the best date you could ever get for this kind of film, for the Oscar season. If a distributor gives you that window, it means they’re pushing the envelope for you. Which doesn’t mean it will get an Oscar, of course, but the film will be pushed. Have you seen the trailer?

Not yet.
Here, I’ll show it to you now. [Luca shows me the trailer of ‘Call Me by Your Name’ on his phone]

That’s great!
Ah, you’re emotional? You’re crying? Wow, that’s good! It means it works. Great! Oh, I’m proud of that. Very proud! It’s strange – this process is very interesting. ‘Call Me by Your Name’ is like the kid who wasn’t really desired. I didn’t want to make the movie.

Why?
It has to do with something you said earlier, about my films being beautiful, that I’m good at ‘beauty.’ I kind of feel oppressed by the idea that what I do can be considered a kind of indulgence in rich people’s mores, and beauty for its own sake.

This may be your first ‘gay’ movie, no? Maybe that’s why it touched me in such a profound way. I’m happy you did it.

I always wanted to make a gay love story. Or more than one. I knew I wanted to convey that feeling that I know very well.

As one should. Nothing beats the autobiographical, does it?

There are two things that I’m very knowledgeable about. One is the love between men, and the other is the erotic tension that’s underlying any relationship between two men, gay or straight. Given the right circumstances, any straight man can bond relentlessly with another man, and maybe even more deeply than with a woman. I very much like that, and that’s why I think I’ll make another film in the future about the characters in ‘Call Me by Your Name’. I’d love to make a cycle of films based on them. How they grow up. Will they meet again? What happens when they meet again?

That’d be nice.
My dream is to make ‘Buddenbrooks’ into a movie. It would in a way encompass all my themes in one story. Do you remember the last chapters, when the little boy…

I don’t think I’ve read ‘Buddenbrooks’.

Oh my god, you will love it! The decadence! It’s the last great example of the complete crash of the bourgeoisie, and only because they can’t accept the fact that they have a son who’s an artist. It’s so beautiful. So beautiful. I dream of making that into a movie. I read it for the first time when I was twelve.

‘Luca Guadagnino’s ‘Buddenbrooks’.’ I’d love to see that on a film poster. And ‘Bambi’. What other film plans do you have lying around?

I’d like to make a film about Salah Abdeslam, the only terrorist who made it back to Belgium alive after the Bataclan massacre. A typical Molenbeek guy.

Didn’t he get killed a few weeks later when they tried to arrest him?

No, he’s alive, in jail, and he refuses to talk. There’s something interesting about him. He was a rent boy, drinking booze, and he only got radicalised in the last three weeks before the attacks. In the end he didn’t want to die and walked away from the Stade de France, out of Paris, for hours and hours. Two friends picked him up, they drove him back to Belgium. They were stopped by the police but they let them go, then he went into hiding. I think it’d be a great film, but I need the right person to write it with me.

I’m sure it wouldn’t be an easy film to make, would it?

It’d be almost impossible. You surely won’t find any big budgets for it.

I still don’t think I can get my head around the complexity of a film project. I mean, how do you do it?

Don’t make me think of that or I’ll want to retire even more. Or make a movie once every 15 years. I’d love that. Did you know that in the US they track people’s search results for movies, and based on that they can exactly, exactly predict how they will perform at the box office?

God, there’s no more room for surprises, is there? Are your movies scrutinized in test screenings?

Oh, I refuse to do that. They obliged me to do it for ‘A Bigger Splash’, and when I got the results I threw the whole report in the bin. Then I took a picture and sent it to them. Literally. I don’t give a shit. Gert, I can stop making movies today and I’d be happy. I can live on one potato a day and I’d be happy. I have no attachment to the medium at all. I don’t give a fucking shit. That’s my freedom.

CONTRIBUTIONS

Photographic assistance by Hudson Hayden and Ériver Hijano. Styling assistance by Ruairi Horan. Hair by Federico Ghezzi using Bumble and bumble. Production by Webber Represents.