Ever since it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, Call Me By Your Name has been the subject of intense critical praise (including from yours truly). With each new unveiling, be it at TIFF or New York Film Festival, the film creates new fans—and for good reason. It’s absolutely one of the best films of the year; a sensual, moving summer romance coming-of-age tale that is impeccably acted, impeccably shot, and basically just impeccably crafted from head to toe. But while the film is indeed quite steamy as the romance between Timothee Chalamet’s Elio and Armie Hammer’s Oliver blossoms, some have taken to criticizing the complete lack of full frontal male nudity. Yes there are sex scenes—quite a lot of them in fact—but the camera never reveals Chalamet or Hammer’s, uh, you-know-whats.
Screenwriter James Ivory, who was initially poised to direct Call Me By Your Name before his version was deemed too expensive, specifically took issue with the lack of frontal nudity (via Variety):
“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?’”
While Ivory is absolutely correct that there’s a double standard when it comes to nudity (Game of Thrones, anyone?), as someone who’s seen Call Me By Your Name I can attest that while there’s no full frontal nudity, I’m not really sure that would have been appropriate for this particular film. While the drama is steamy, it’s far more sensual than it is sexual. The relationship between Elio and Oliver rolls out slowly, with director and co-writer Luca Guadagnino first wholly immersing the audience into the setting and atmosphere. From there, we sense the attraction, the longing, and the love between these two characters. It’s not primal, it’s emotional, and Fifty Shades of Grey-esque sex scenes would seem out of place.
“I am the least prudish director you can meet. I’ve been very precise in using the female and male body on screen to convey all kind of emotions. I thought that the display of nudity in this specific movie was absolutely irrelevant and I understand that for James it would have been relevant but that is his vision, what is clear is that we had no limitations on what we wanted to do.”