On paper, it's easy to assume at what attracted Luca Guadagnino to direct Bones and All. The film, which follows a pair of young cannibals on a journey across the American heartland, marries the horror and romance genres that the filmmaker is uniquely familiar with. But as Guadagnino explains, "That's not the way I think of cinema. I've never really been very impressed by the idea of making genre films."
Bones and All follows Maren (Taylor Russell) and Lee (Timothée Chalamet), so-called "eaters" who share one another's loneliness and hunger. The film not only brings Guadagnino and Chalamet together for the first time since they made Call Me By Your Name in 2017, but it is also adapted from the 2015 novel of the same name by screenwriter David Kajganich, with whom Guadagnino collaborated on 2016's A Bigger Splash and 2018's Suspiria.
"I wanted to tell the story of a couple of disenfranchised kids lost in America," the director says. "In this journey, these characters have to face many difficulties. Most of them come from within themselves."
The film, notably, marks the first time that the Italian director, who received a Best Picture nomination in 2018 for Call Me By Your Name, has made a movie that is both set and shot in the States. With that in mind, he referenced the photography of William Eggleston to craft his portrait of 1980s rural America. "Through his lens, Eggleston's been able to capture the desolation, sudden beauty, and humanism of America," he shares. And then came the cannibalism.
While Bones and All doesn't shy away from Maren and Lee's appetites for human flesh, it lacks the same sort of shocking body horror found in Guadagnino's 2018 remake of Dario Argento's Suspiria. For Guadagnino, that was by design. "I didn't see this as a movie driven by that concept of horror. I wasn't interested in anything for shock value, that's for sure," he explains.
"I'm drawn to characters and settings, as well as the kind of stories that can be bigger than life," offers the filmmaker. "By that, I mean stories that allow you to see something in them that can be very particular but also universal."
Below, Guadagnino shares with A.frame the five films that he finds most inspiring.
Directed and written by: Souleymane Cissé
This is one of the masterpieces of 20th century cinema. It tackles the archetypes and the ancestral vision of Africa from within Africa. It's made by a great Malian director, the great Souleymane Cissé, who sees the myth of his land in a great way, and it's a movie of incredible beauty. It believes in magic, and because it's about the fight between a father and his son over magic powers, it's able to create magic out of the actual language of cinema rather than having to resort to the banality of special effects.
Where to Watch: The Criterion Collection
Directed by: Ken Russell | Written by: Larry Kramer
This is an amazing adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's masterpiece novel from the early 20th century. Ken Russell achieves something in this film that is very difficult to achieve, which is to identify the language of the novel as well as the cinematic translation of it. The film has a language all its own that is just amazing and remarkable. It tells a story of compression and repression, and Russell finds a kind of modernist language that helps give life to the film's story. It's an incredible movie about the male identity and the possibility of men embracing the fullness of sexuality. It's just fantastic.
Directed by: Steven Spielberg | Written by: Tom Stoppard
Steven Spielberg is probably one of the sharpest and toughest working directors. He's a legend and a master who has often been misunderstood or misrepresented as a sentimental filmmaker. The truth is that he's actually a believer in Cinema with a capital "C" and the way in which the language of cinema can encompass every emotion. At the same time, he's someone who is bringing to life these beautiful, unsentimental stories.
In this case, he's approaching the life of J.G. Ballard. The marriage between Ballard and his semi-autobiography and Spielberg is one of those "miracles of life," to quote the literary sequel to Empire of the Sun. I’ll never forget Christian Bale's performance in this film, either, and the way in which he portrays, with an incredible sense of space and time, the upheaval and disruption of an entire country. It's incredible how he portrays the coming-of-age of a child of war. Of course, it must be said that John Malkovich is also amazing in this.
Directed by: Martin Scorsese | Written by: Jay Cocks and Martin Scorsese
I saw The Age of Innocence when it screened in Venice for the first time. I was 22, and I was shattered by it. I continue to be shattered by it, because it's a great movie about the violence of repression and the violence of society. It's one of those movies, like Women in Love and all the films on my list, that creates a shape and form that comes solely from an understanding of cinema as a visual language, not as a language made of words. The beginning of the movie, where you see how the gods of New York's high society in the 19th century scrutinize and gossip at the premiere of the opera, is a masterful lesson in how that kind of attitude can be shown visually. It's incredible.
Directed and written by: Claude Chabrol
Betty is one of the greatest movies from Claude Chabrol, based on the novel by Georges Simenon and starring the late Marie Trintignant. Formally, I'm still trying to understand how Chabrol made it because it's a daring lesson in direction. It's just sublime, and you cannot grasp it completely — the depth and width and profundity of how Chabrol managed to create a visual and cinematic language for the film. At the core of it, there is the Betty character, played by Marie Trintignant, who is the person you are engineered as a member of society to hate, and yet the compassion and harshness of the character that Chabrol brings to life with Trintignant is astonishing. This is one of cinema's masterpieces.