James Ivory On Lack of “Call Me” Nudity

In the space of a year, at least three highly acclaimed gay romance dramas have been released or hit the festival circuit – Barry Jenkins’ Oscar winner “Moonlight,” Francis Lee’s stunning debut film “God’s Own Country,” and Luca Guadagnino’s ravishing “Call Me By Your Name”.

Having long gotten past the ‘coming out’ and ‘dying of AIDs’ tropes of most gay romance films, all three tackle a more interesting and prescient angle that’s familiar to any relationship – namely that of intimacy issues.

With ‘Call Me’ in particular, a film all about sensuality and stimulating the audience’s senses, there’s an interesting blend of both chasteness and forwardness. The infamous ‘peach’ scene from the Andre Aciman novel remains intact, but the actual sex scene is notably toned down.

Overall the explicitness of the story is dropped in favor of an emotional focus, in doing so it actually ups the film’s commercial and mainstream appeal – even if it comes at a slight cost to its core audience.

Interestingly, the film’s original director and legendary filmmaker James Ivory has revealed that his take on the material was more graphic than what Guadagnino ultimately did. Ivory, who has a screenplay credit on the final film and says he remained very involved right up until the shoot, tells Variety that one thing he laments is the film’s lack of full frontal nudity.

In regards to nudity, his approach has always been that there are some stories that demand it and if you don’t get it you feel short-changed. However, he brings up an interesting talking point about national attitudes towards male nudity:

“Certainly in my screenplay there was all sorts of nudity. But according to Luca, both actors had it in their contract that there would be no frontal nudity, and there isn’t, which I think is kind of a pity.

Again, it’s just this American attitude. Nobody seems to care that much, or be shocked, about a totally naked woman. It’s the men. This is something that must be so deeply cultural that one should ask: ‘Why?'”

Ivory went on to mention his classic film “A Room with a View” which boasts a skinny-dipping sequence with three actors engaging in some carefree male nudity: “In those days – in the 1980s and these were all British actors – they didn’t give a damn.”

“Call Me By Your Name” opens on November 24th.