With his advancing age, fashion patriarch Edoardo Recchi (Ferzetti) gathers his family to announce that he's passing on the company to his grandson Edo (Parenti), bypassing his son Tandredi (Delbono). Tancredi's Russian-born wife Emma (Swinton) has dedicated her whole life to her family, but now that Edo is in charge and their other children (Rohrwacher and Zaccaro) are moving on with their lives, she starts looking around and notices Edo's chef friend Antonio (Gabbriellini), who is planning to open a restaurant with Edo. The spark between Emma and Antonio is unexpected and powerful.
Filmmaker Guadagnino is making a potent comment on the old and new worlds, and cleverly captures the tension between them in this story, which is relatively straightforward but loaded with implications. There are constant echoes in the locations: Milano in winter looks eerily like Moscow, San Remo in summer is almost overpoweringly earthy. The film sensually uses light, colour and design, and its depiction of food borders on the orgasmic, especially as old family recipes drive key plot points.
Meanwhile, Swinton delivers another remarkably transparent performance as a woman who has enjoyed her opulent life, relaxing in the pampering care of her servants. When she turns to one of them (Paiato) hoping for an understanding ear, the reaction is both startling and telling. The central focus is Emma's gradual thawing, releasing her from years of faithful service to her family.
And the result is both provocative and thoughtful: is Emma banished or freed? Is the family destroyed or reborn?
This is a gorgeously assembled film, with its sleek settings and a timeless quality that leaves us with a real sense that modern technology is threatening the traditions, especially as the Recchi men travel to gloomy London to consider a foreign buyer. Director Guadagnino also cleverly plays with focus and texture to highlight family connections and even sexuality along the way.
This is luxuriant, immaculately observed filmmaking that really gets under the skin if you let it.
Production compaines: Rai Cinema
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Producer: Luca Guadagnino, Francesco Melzi d'Eril, Marco Morabito, Tilda Swinton, Alessandro Usai, Massimiliano Violante
Screenwriter: Luca Guadagnino, Barbara Alberti, Ivan Cotroneo, Walter Fasano
Starring: Tilda Swinton as Emma Recchi, Flavio Parenti as Edoardo Recchi Jr., Edoardo Gabbriellini as Antonio Biscaglia, Gabriele Ferzetti as Edoardo Recchi Senior, Marisa Berenson as Allegra Rori Recchi, Pippo Delbono as Tancredi Recchi, Alba Rohrwacher as Elisabetta Recchi, Diane Fleri as Eva Ugolini, Mattia Zaccaro as Gianluca Recchi, Maria Paiato as Ida Marangon