i have become obsessed with this story, all because of clip to Psychedelic Furs. I’m such a sucker for new wave, early 80s music, it’s not even funny. Someone should put a reel together of cauliflower to The Cure, and I will soon only eat cauliflower.
In any case, I’ve read the novel twice and seen the movie once. Safe to say I am obsessed.
The book revolves around one man’s recollection of his first wild summer love affair as a teen in Italy. There are a lot of descriptions of cicada I paid attention to because it’s something that reminds everyone of summer (or many) and yet, it’s not easy to describe in an interesting, original way. The author wrote “frantic cicadas,” which I thought was pretty good.
The film is a smart adaption of a book that’s so interior–the lead character endlessly ponders every angle about the object of his crush, the latest of his father’s interns/writing fellows, an American grad school student visiting for six weeks to finish his book. It takes place in 1983 before AIDS became a full blown annihilation and being gay is still very much a tricky thing.
The first time I read it, I did not sense the threat of coming out of the closet. The second time, I saw it all over the place. The grad student keeps referring and showing a giant boo-boo (sorry, I’m around kids too much and have no idea what else to call it) to the lead character that felt random, but that I now believe is an allusion to the enormous lesions AIDS patients developed.
My friend Becca saw the film before me and described as a portrayal of that passionate first love and I was skeptical at first, I think, because I believe true romance means not continuing a relationship and really getting to know the person — because of course, we are all annoying, sometimes great, sometimes petty, and pretty normal. But if you have a brief affair, it’s superficial, you don’t really have to know the person, and so to me, the concept of the great romance is a pure illusion. Brevity is a key part of the romantic ideal. The movie/novel is being pitched as universal, that great love can happen to anyone and that anyone can relate to this story.
As I get to know the work, I think the fact that this is the love story between two men is crucial. The brevity of their affair is absolutely because it is safer to fit into a heterosexual society. The grad student choose to marry a woman — he might care for her, of course, but I think his character does not explore a deeper connection with the lead character because being gay and out is scary. At least, that’s what seems like. I have never had to go through that so I don’t know if this story is an accurate portrayal of that experience. I have not had to live through that time period where gay men were being exterminated en masse by AIDS. I cannot imagine the devastation of losing so many people in your community, so many friends, all at once. I cannot imagine.
Another note on the movie, the kid playing the protagonist is incredible. So much of the script requires him to be alone. There was a Stanislavesky (spelling?) exercise we used to do in acting class, which was being alone in public. So many of us bombed, needing to feel interesting. It is very hard to sit still on a stage as if you were at home, but this kid does it effortlessly, or seemingly so. There is not a shred of self-consciousness, he is fully at ease on camera and it is amazing to watch. The other actor playing the grad student is far more experienced and quite beautiful and fully commits, and yet I don’t find him charismatic or believable in the part. It’s tough. Talent is talent, you know? But I will give him credit for choosing the part and the PR involved with plugging a film for a year or longer. Taste is part of talent and being able to sound enthused and fresh with the literal same words/stories over and over again is also a talent and sick skill.