Call me by your name

The famed Italian film director Luca Guadagnimo’s new film on same-sex desire, “Call Me By Your Name,” normalizes homoeroticism, if we are to believe critic Manhola Darghis’ superb review.

A strong narrative, writes Darghis, tethers the film’s “sensuous surface” with its “churning feeling.” We get an inkling of the intertwining of surface and depth in the following description of slow but sure irradiation of seduction between the two young male characters in the film, Elio and Oliver:

Elio and Oliver’s affair begins slowly with each circling the other at a distance, conveying the kind of nonchalance that’s a shield for interest. Oliver proves far better at this part of the game; he knows more than to look too long and too hard. Elio’s furtive, ducking glances, by contrast, tend to linger, hovering in the air like questions. He’s increasingly curious about this new guest, but soon inexplicably (to Elio, at least) irked by him as well, leading Elio to complain to his parents about Oliver’s standard signoff (“later”). But when Elio scribbles a private rebuke in a notebook, chastising himself for responding harshly toward Oliver, it’s as if he were writing an apologetic love letter.

Having seen several films based on same-sex desire–“Blue is the Warmest Color,” “My Summer of Love,” “Carol” and “A Single Man,” among others–I need to say this: Films featuring women lovers end up producing more unnecessary objectification, eruption (of negative emotions) and subterranean violence than films featuring male one’s. A pro-male bias?

Seen through Ms. Darghis’ lens, “Call Me By Your Name” is awash in sensuality and the soft touch of normal romance, twin attributes of the “real” that I missed in the films where women fall in love with one another.


I Would Not be Anyone Else

Todd May’s philosophical rumination on what we would do were we to aspire to be someone else:

We live in world in which the lives of those with more wealth or fame or recognition or influence or beauty are constantly placed before us as though they were something to aspire to. And, of course, there is nothing wrong with aspiration in itself. But to the extent these lives are presented to us as something to be hankered after, as lives we would certainly want if only we could have them, we are presented with an image that asks us to forget what is important to us. In an age of acquisitiveness, and one moreover in which the normative constraints on acquisitiveness have largely fallen away, it is comforting — and perhaps even imperative — to recognize that of all the personal histories that we might choose from, it is our own that would be our likely choice.

Capitalism and Poverty

We often say that capitalism, or at least its excesses, breeds poverty. In his new book, “Evicted”, Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond proposes that poverty may not just be a side effect of violent capitalism, but an opportunity for capitalism to blossom.

Desmond’s book studies the lives of the urban poor–mostly black and women–in Milwaukee, to stake a claim that exploitation is innate to poverty and that the poor are poor not simply because they have been victims of an exploitative machinery, but also because they constitute an industry off which people get rich.

In an insightful review of the book Barbara Ehrenreich presents the following scenario from Desmond’s book to clinch the point that poverty too can be turned into an entrepreneurial venture, where the poor themselves become commodities:

The landlord who evicts Lamar, Larraine [two of the subjects] and so many others is rich enough to vacation in the Caribbean while her tenants shiver in Milwaukee. The owner of the trailer park takes in over $400,000 a year. These incomes are made possible by the extreme poverty of the tenants, who are afraid to complain and lack any form of legal representation. Desmond mentions payday loans and for-profit colleges as additional exploiters of the poor — a list to which could be added credit card companies, loan sharks, pay-to-own furniture purveyors and many others who have found a way to spin gold out of human sweat and tears. Poverty in America has become a lucrative business, with appalling results…