Sound And Vision: Luca Guadagnino

Contributing Writer; The Netherlands
Sound And Vision: Luca Guadagnino

In the article series Sound and Vision we take a look at music videos from notable directors. This week we take a look at several music videos by Luca Guadagnino.

Luca Guadagnino's films are vibrant and lush, pulsating with life and a heartbeat, like music. He is often one to curate his soundtracks carefully, with the likes of The Rolling Stones, Harry Nilsson, Captain Beefheart, Sufjan Stevens, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Thom Yorke and John Adams showing up on his soundtracks. Sometimes he chooses pre-existing tracks, but more often he asks his favorite artists to provide the sonic backdrop for his films. It is fitting that a few of the music videos Guadagnino directed are for tracks tailor made for his own features, starting out with Elisa, who made the track Swan for the film Melissa P. More famously, Sufjan Stevens made Mystery of Love for Call Me By Your Name, and the music video is all pre-existing footage from that film, re-edited by Guadagnino. The same thing happens with his video for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' (You Made It Feel Like) Home, which was the leading track for Guadgnino's own Bones and All.

There are many music videos that Guagnino made, especially pre-fame, that are original pieces, not tied to a film. The aforementioned Elisa, for instance, had Guadagnino direct music videos for Asile's World, Broken and Luce. Luce, especially, was prime Guagnino before he got famous (see it below). The colors are washed-out, almost sepia. The camera work is handheld, and there is a sense of naturalism. The music video he co-directed for Paola Turci's Il Gigante together with cp-director Maria Sole Tognazzi is similarly rough in style, deliberately so.

Elisa's Luce is also quite thematically firmly set within Guadagnino's current and past obsessions, in its focus on nature and love triangles. Shots of leaves and forests also show up in Sergio Cammariere's Non Mi Lasciare Qui (also co-directed with Tognazzi), as does the love triangle. The naturalistic sense of style and romantic woes show up in Irene Grandi's Sconvolti Cosi, which also experiments with diegetic sound, where conversations and kitchen noises distract from the music.

Luce and Il Gigante have an almost Dogme-like video camera quality to them, something that is even more overt in Francesco Boccia's Amo A La Ragazza (see also below), which pushes the dogme-aspect to it's brink, and instead lands on eurotrash. It's a far cry from the heightened style of later Guadagnino.

Still, when Guadagnino hits it out of the park, like with Elisa's Luce, there is the same sense of vibrancy that shows up in his later films, even though the likes of Call Me By Your Name and Suspiria both feel less naturalistic and more heightened. This push towards a more deliberate sense of style is already present in a transitional video like the one for Planet Funk's Who Said, which uses a fly on the wall cam, slightly out of focus and in just a few takes, to really drive a performance home. It reads like realism on face value, but it is also very carefully thought out and pushed to its extremes.

The Guadagnino who became a well known film auteur after I Am Love is present in his last two original music videos. One is for Sufjan Stevens' Tell Me You Love Me (see also below), and the other is for Colapesce, Dimartino and Ornella Vanoni's Toy Boy (see finally below). Both are striking, colorful pieces, where the nature element is stripped of all real world elements and instead becomes otherworldly. Both are also very much focussing on human movement against stark, simple backdrops. There is still this romantic longing, the focus on human bodies, and the vibrancy of life. But realism has left the building. This is the Guadagnino of films like Bones and All, Suspiria and Challengers, who blends genre tropes and a joyful maximalism to get at the heart of his own obsessions. Love. Life. Hate. Nature. Passion. Death. Music. The Guadagnino of Elisa's Luce and Melissa P. and other early films was still searching for meaning, and trying to find it in reality and naturalism, one foot firmly planted in the present. The Guadagnino we know today, and from music videos like Toy Boy and Tell Me You Love Me instead shoots for the moon and is floating in space. Instead of finding meaning in the real world, he found it in ideas, symbols and iconography. His themes have become grand statements. Live, Laugh, Love with Guadagnino. And love it, I do.

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