The film is set in northern Italy in the summer of 1983 and boasts an eclectic soundtrack of classical and pop music, including two new songs by singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens. The coming-of-age romance centers on Elio (a super-smart, multi-lingual 17-year-old, played by Chalamet), who falls for his professor father’s visiting summer intern, graduate student Oliver (Hammer).
Stevens contributed two new tracks he composed specifically for the film (“Mystery of Love” and “Visions of Gideon”), along with a new reworking of his 2010 song “Futile Devices.” In addition, Call Me by Your Name highlights a number of classical pieces (some we see performed on-screen by Chalamet), Italian and French tunes popular of the era, as well as The Psychedelic Furs’ early ‘80s rock hit “Love My Way.”
Guadagnino worked with his film editor Walter Fasano, and his music supervisor Robin Urdang, on selecting the music heard in Call Me by Your Name.
“There were pieces of music that I knew I wanted to hear in the film,” Guadagnino tells Billboard. “Particularly… choosing some of the piano pieces that were, in a way, commentary to the film. In particular, ‘Hallelujah Junction’ by John Adams that opens the film. Or the ‘Ma mère l'Oye’ by (Maurice) Ravel. There are pieces of music that are in the script because Elio plays them, like (music by) Bach.
“Then, there was the sound of the '80s,” he continues. “Music that was coming off of the radios. Contemporary hits. So… we investigated which were the hits of the summer. Not only that, but of course you have to think of what were the songs that were hits the summers before.”
Guadagnino says they “methodically” researched the then-contemporary music that’s heard in the movie. “We started to think how radios, in that particular region of Italy, would have programmed those pieces of music — at what time of the day that song could have been played.
“So, I can tell you that the music you hear coming from the radio (in the film), and the music that the kids listened to, and the music in the discotheque … it's very precise.”
As for the inclusion of “Love My Way,” that was something Guadagnino put into the James Ivory-written script. “I love The Psychedelic Furs. I mean, ‘Heaven,’ ‘Pretty in Pink’ … ‘Love My Way,’ those are hymns for our generation. Oliver, in his search for himself, when he listens to the song (in a party sequence where he dances up a storm), he’s getting completely into his own world.”
Guadagnino also speaks to how Oliver might resonate with “Love My Way’s” lyrics — which could be interpreted to be about a different kind of love that is not accepted (with lyrics like “love my way, it’s a new road” and “they’d dearly make us pay for laughing in their faces and making it our way”). The director says “there are pieces of music that signifies for us, in our life, a memory, a moment, or an aim. And in that case, it's an aim. It's both memory and aim.”
As for Stevens’ contributions to the film, Guadagnino says he wanted music that would give the film a “precise identity” that would act as a “voice” in the movie. “That’s when I thought of Sufjan Stevens.”
“I wanted to have a sort of narrator,” Guadagnino says, “without having a normal narrator. I think what Sufjan comes with is, three things. First, the lyrics he writes are incredibly evocative. Very, very sharp. And they are, in a way, capable of evoking images that are not necessarily the same for everybody. So this, in a way, makes it universal. The music is pure and poetic, and simple… And the voice is like crystal. His voice is so angelic in a way. So, the combination of these three things was fantastic.”
In our chat with Guadagnino, we also discuss the possibility of a sequel to the film, as well as what music Elio might have been listening to on his oft-seen Walkman (when he wasn’t listening to classical selections, that is).
Call Me by Your Name is in currently in limited release in theaters in the New York and the Los Angeles area in the U.S., and expands to additional screens across the country over the next two weeks, before eventually going nationwide in mid-January.
In addition to the interview with Guadagnino, the Pop Shop team dives into big chart news about Ed Sheeran and Beyoncé hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Perfect,” U2 collecting its eighth No. 1 album on the Billboard 200, how Sheeran is Billboard’s top artist of the year for 2017. On top of that all, Keith and Katie discuss some of the familiar pop stars that were nominated for Golden Globe Awards, including Nick Jonas, Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige.
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