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I AM LOVE – Now in Theaters

I AM LOVE starts out with a set up Shakespeare would approve The Recchi family: Emma (Tilda Swinton), her husband and their three grown children as well as various other family members host a birthday dinner for the Recchi patriarch, Edoardo. During his toast, Edoardo announces that the successor to the Recchi textile factory is not only Tancredi, Emma’s husband, but also their eldest son Edoardo Jr. Aside from a slight raise of his eyebrows, Tancredi’s surprise is never expressed. Edoardo Jr. seems to have other things in mind his future (something about a construction contract in relation to the Tate Gallery) but this too is overlooked. In fact, the father-son feud that introduces the film is never brought up again and neither is the family business until it’s casually sold off after Edoardo’ s death.

After the birthday dinner the story shifts instead to Emma, a rich, dispassionate housewife who expertly presides over a team of servants and is a loving, devoted mother to her children. We see almost nothing of her husband, but we do start to see a lot of Edoardo’s friend Antonio, a chef who wants to open up a destination restaurant in the countryside to feature his groundbreaking dishes. The first time Emma tries one of his entrees she’s transported to a world of pure pleasure, something it’s clear she hasn’t experienced in quite some time. It’s not long before her gustatory pleasure-seeking turns physical with the food’s creator and the remainder of the film is devoted to exploring Emma’s affair with Antonio in a variety of settings (inside, outside, on the floor, on the grass) and with a variety of camera techniques like blurs, close-ups, and over-the-top obvious analogous cut-aways to a variety of insects pollinating a variety of flora and fauna. One such unnecessarily extended outdoor lovemaking scene is followed by a shot of a moth buzzing around a lamp in Emma and Tancredi’s bedroom, underlining the contrast to her impotent marital life.

The disparity between her life at home in her opulent mansion with her business man husband vs. her freedom in the sexy outdoors with her passionate chef lover is told in frustratingly drawn out sequences with little or no dialogue. Instead, the audience is free to explore the screen, which is lush to be sure and does as much as it possibly can to help along a film with no story to tell. I’m not talking about the fact that the premise of a bored, rich woman who takes a lover has been told before; Even so I could very easily care about a woman like Emma, but I AM LOVE gives me no reason to. She and her family simply haven’t been given enough dialogue to tell me who they are and so the events that transpire do so on a canvas that may be beautifully painted but ultimately lacks artistic direction.