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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Comfort Films Medley – Chocolat, Call Me by Your Name, Ferris Bueller

Sarah Townsend explores not two but three films which can take us out of a lockdown funk, and into a dream of summer bitter-sweetly remembered.

During the summer vacation, countless people wish they could ‘pull a Donna Sheridan’ and escape to the Greek island from Mamma Mia! For me, there are three perfect summer films that offer a similar holiday escapism: Chocolat (2001), Call Me by Your Name (2017), and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). 

“But isn’t Chocolat set during Easter?” I hear you ask. You’re right, it is, and it doesn’t have an ABBA soundtrack. Nonetheless, its protagonist, a free-spirited traveller, and its rural French setting are comforting to the housebound, and remind me of a summer holiday I’m yet to experience.

Based on a novel by Joanne Harris, the story is sweet and simple: single mother Vianne (Juliette Binoche) and her daughter travel whichever way the North wind blows, settling in a sleepy French town where outsiders are unwelcome. Much to the dismay of Comte de Reynaud (Alfred Molina), the old-fashioned mayor, they open a chocolate shop during Lent, offering sweet treats to tempt the locals. The film even introduces a hint of magic with Vianne’s supernatural ability to prescribe chocolate as a remedy for each customer’s problems. The story is pleasant and charming enough to resemble a countryside fairy tale.

It’s true, Chocolat might be more of a springtime drama than a ‘summer lovin’ romance – but with rich food and a happy ending, it offers a gentle reminder to enjoy the vacation and indulge in all things sweet.

Then again, after the amount of chocolate I ate during lockdown, the freedom to indulge in my every whim might just have lost its appeal. In all honesty, the end of term meant the freedom to sleep – a lot. Summer is just a breakdown of daily structure, with longer hours and less to do.

Easily a modern summer favourite, Call Me by Your Name is the perfect embodiment of this lazy vacation feeling. Based on André Aciman’s novel, 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) spends the quiet summer of 1983 in his family’s Italian villa, striking up a passionate romance with 24-year-old Oliver (Armie Hammer), his father’s archaeology student intern. It must be said that considering the uncomfortable age gap, Call Me by Your Name does not portray the perfect relationship. Still, by ensuring that the film is entirely from Elio’s perspective, director Luca Guadagnino transforms the intense, short-lived summer romance into a sensual coming of age tale. Through an exploration of unrestrained sexuality, the film focuses on Elio’s awakening to desire, love, and heartbreak.

“It was very important for us for the movie not to look period, for the movie not to look like a reflection on the 80s,” said Guadagnino at the New York Film Festival of 2017. In line with Guadagnino’s artistic vision, costume designer Giulia Piersanti avoided ‘80s clichés’ in favour of more ambiguous, loose-fitting outfits. In her words, the costumes communicated “a sense of summer heat and sensuality” – and this is the essence of the film. With its pastel colour palette and Northern Italian setting, Guadagnino creates a dream-like film in which one summer’s day seems to blur into another.

But if I said that a summer classic is anything that captures the lazy ‘what day is it today’ feeling, I’d be sorely mistaken. If there’s one film that teaches you to make full use of a perfect summer’s day, it is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. A teen comedy blockbuster written and directed by John Hughes, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is one of those 80s classics that never gets old.

One of Hughes’s most beloved characters, Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) is the high school student everyone wishes they were – popular, brainy, and not afraid to skip school. Having convinced his parents that he’s ill, Ferris trades in stuffy classrooms for a sunny day out in Chicago with his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) and best-buddy Cameron (Alan Ruck). With ingenious plans to cover his tracks, Ferris’s quick wit is put to the test as he escapes the wrath of two amusing opponents: uptight principal Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), and Ferris’s sour-faced sister Jeanie (Jennifer Gray). From witty dialogue to slapstick comedy, the film is both inventive and hilarious.

Described by John Hughes as his “love letter to Chicago”, Ferris’s fast-paced adventures show the city in all its glory. Even including an iconic public performance of ‘Twist and Shout’, Hughes creates the perfect high-energy setting for the film’s carefree ‘live for the moment’ mentality.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off has been hailed as a pop culture touchstone, and ‘iconic’ is the right word to use. Decades later, some of the film’s most famous scenes have been recreated in the likes of Deadpool and Family Guy, and this comes as no surprise. Infallible Ferris Bueller serves us the fantasy of fun without consequence – the ultimate feel-good film even 34 years later.

Whether you’re longing for a Chocolat style French holiday or an escape to sunny Chicago, I can’t help but feel that it’s Call Me by Your Name that best describes the summer of 2020. No, unfortunately I’m not referring to a dreamy Italian romance, but when Oliver asks Elio what he does during his vacation, to which he responds: “Nothing. Wait for summer to end.” Yeah, I can relate.

Image via Wiki Images

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