Birthday Portrait of

Timothée Chalamet

by Matvey Cherry

Illustration by Paco May

That a brown-eyed squishy boy

with a sharp, fragile chin

like a porcelain espresso cup

would very soon come at night

to every teenager that languishes from lust,

I guessed almost immediately after watching Hot Summer Nights (2017). The trivial pop drama feels like the classic Aerosmith and Bon Jovi music videos and smells like bubblegum and One by Calvin Klein. Timothée plays Daniel, a clumsy, insecure kid who has just lost his beloved father. Grief blurs his eyes, so that he goes through life like a blind newborn kitten. From scene to scene, his initiation (defloration) lasts, and every viewer of it feels like an old pedophile-fetishist.

In the same year, Call Me By Your Name was released. Not a film, but THE FILM. Outwardly, all decency is observed, but in fact it’s not a movie, but an ode to unclouded joy and the recognition of a voyeur. Luca Guadagnino can’t take his eyes off Chalamet, like the rest of the world that has learned to call this little prince, the child of vice, by his name. He is not your Anglo-Saxon Timothy, he’s Timothée. Only French pronunciation, accent on the last syllable! Like any idol, he needs a mysterious overseas fleur. And, of course, Call Me By Your Name is not about peaches. It doesn’t matter who exactly poured out the juice, who tasted the forbidden fruit. It’s obvious that Timothée’s cheeks are silkier than any gifts of nature. However, Guadagnino, as an experienced aesthete, didn’t fail to place an exotic fruit in a suitable interior — there are lutes, antiquity, brocade, and velvet — the arrangement is composed according to all the laws of the magnificent eloquence of classical painting. Surprisingly, Chalamet didn’t become a gay icon after this film, which is more a Power Point presentation of pre-Raphaelite art. Same-sex love is idealized there, all the sharpness of the dish is muted by sweet dressing. Guadagnino’s film tries to be a manifest, but it’s not. It’s far from the transgressive antics of Alain Guiraudie or the feverish visions of Derek Jarman. Homosexuality of Call Me By Your Name is a candy-bouquet, with Mozart and Brahms, quotes from Rousseau and curtsies to Bronzino. Those gays have descended from the pages of Architectural Digest magazine. Nevertheless, Elio’s tears at the train station or at Christmas in front of a crackling fireplace are real. Finally, Chalamet made us believe that his lips are not only to lick foamy milk or steal kisses. He can bite them until they bleed, having fainted from the blow below the belt.

In the films of Wes Anderson and Denis Villeneuve, Chalamet is again in the image of an irresistible boy. No matter what outfit he is wearing, whether the mantle of an intergalactic aristocrat or a sweater from Haider Ackermann, he is allowed to do everything — to make fun of May 68th or to decide the future of the planet Arrakis.

Matvey Cherry


Paco May


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