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The life and death of a family: 'I Am Love' screens in Toronto

September 14, 2009 |  5:15 pm

"There are some people here tonight, and they know who they are, who I have been banging on about Luca Guadagnino for 11 years now," Tilda Swinton said prior to Sunday's screening of "I Am Love" at the Toronto International Film Fest. "And tonight I hope I'm vindicated."

She most certainly was. "I Am Love," directed and co-written by Guadagnino, is a sprawling, ambitious story of a wealthy industrial Italian family facing changes both big and small. The film has become one of the buzz items here in Toronto, a frequent topic of cocktail chatter and idle discussion, in part following a near-ecstatic review in Variety a week or so ago following the film's premiere at the Venice Film Festival.

Swinton plays a sort-of middle-generation matriarch, a Russian woman who married into the Italian family. (Swinton speaks Italian and Russian and a little halting English in the film.) With Visconti's classic "The Leopard" as the most obvious touchstone, "I Am Love" captures a sense of how larger cultural forces -- the globalizing economy, for one -- can affect the most intimate moments of people's lives. Guadagnino gives the film an amazingly accomplished, fully rounded feel. The film looks at once contemporary and timelessly retro, while the pulsing, buzzing orchestral music by John Adams adds a staggering emotional punch.

-- Mark Olsen