‘“When Luca says he never thought of putting nudity in, that is totally untrue,” says Ivory. “He sat in this very room where I am sitting now, talking about how he would do it, so when he says that it was a conscious aesthetic decision not to – well, that’s just bullshit.
“When people are wandering around before or after making love, and they’re decorously covered with sheets, it’s always seemed phoney to me. I never liked doing that. And I don’t do it, as you know.” In Maurice, his 1987 film of EM Forster’s posthumously published gay love story, “the two guys have had sex and they get up and you certainly see everything there is to be seen. To me, that’s a more natural way of doing things than to hide them, or to do what Luca did, which is to pan the camera out of the window toward some trees. Well …” He gives a derisive snort.’
Although many have talked about the sexy side of the movie – most particularly the peach scene – the film is actually quite coy. It seems that if Ivory has been behind the camera, things would have been different.
The writer/director also spoke about why he kept his long-term romantic relationship with Ismail Merchant – the producer side of the famed ‘Merchant-Ivory’ filmmaking partnership – a secret until after Merchant died during surgery in 2005. Even though they made films that touched on gay themes – most noticeably 1987’s Maurice – they kept quiet about their own love.
Ivory says the reason was because, “That is not something that an Indian Muslim would ever say publicly or in print. Ever! You have to remember that Ismail was an Indian citizen living in Bombay, with a deeply conservative Muslim family there. It’s not the sort of thing he was going to broadcast. Since we were so close and lived most of our lives together, I wasn’t about to undermine him.”
Call Me By Your Name is still making headlines, most recently for being pulled from the Beijing International Film Festival, according to Reuters. There was no reason given for why it was pulled, but many assumed it was a result of a Chinese Government censorship crack down. LGBT themes have long had difficulty in the country, sometimes being allowed and sometimes banned. In the last couple of years there’s been concerted efforts to remove them from the big and small screen.
There’s also been renewed interest (some would say paranoia) about foreign ideas and morality being imported into China via movies and TV, with some fearing it as a kind of cultural imperialism that’s a threat to the unity of the Chinese people. It’s possible he Call Me By Your Name screening was a victim of worries over this, particularly following recent announcement that the government wanted to be even more hands on in its censorship role than it had been previously.