In editing Luca Guadagnino’s sun-drenched love story Call Me by Your Name, Walter Fasano faced the same challenges he’s confronted consistently in his two decades working with the director, ever since cutting his first short film on the Moviola—supporting the “fact behind the image” while finding ways to surprise the audience.
Meeting as cinema students in Rome in the mid-‘90s, and sharing an interest in everything from John Carpenter and George Romero to U.S. melodramas of the ’50s, Guadagnino and Fasano are thoroughly aligned in their impulses, preferring a cinema verité approach that gives free reign to the actor’s performance.
With Call Me by Your Name—depicting a romance between a teenager and his professor father’s research assistant, staying with his family for the summer—Fasano worked from 35mm film shot by cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom on only one lens, his mission being to soak viewers in the warm glow of small-town Italy through visceral cinematic experience.
Now, with Guadagnino’s Suspiria, Fasano has come up against a quite different challenge—editing a reimagining of a film made by one of his other longtime collaborators, Dario Argento. Fasano gives his take on the yin-and-yang dynamic transpiring with Guadagnino’s latest offerings.
How would you describe the relationship between Guadagnino and his collaborators?
Basically, we are a family. He’s a Coppolian director who likes to ask people to join him, and in the last year he moved to Crema, the city where Call Me by Your Name was shot. It’s good because you can be very concentrated on what you’re doing, because it’s a small town, and what you do is, 24 hours a day, you work on the movie with him, and brainstorm and cut and shoot. So it’s a kind of factory, in a very Guadagnino way—very atypical. We are part of one organism, and it’s very demanding, but it’s a great experience.
How would you describe your collective approach to the material with Call Me by Your Name, when it came to the visuals?
I must tell you sincerely that Luca is known for at least, in the worst case scenario, generating very interesting images. What I can tell you in general is that he’s interested in exploring everything that has to do with the real devices of moviemaking, and obviously, with the presence of Sayombhu Mukdeeprom as cinematographer. We already worked together on a movie that Luca produced—it was called Antonia—and Sayombhu is simply a maestro. So basically, the first images I got were just extraordinary.
I’ve never found, watching the footage of his stuff, that there is a scene where they just shot a master and close-ups and reverse shots. Sometimes it happens, but it’s for some specific reason.I’m not talking about articulate camera movements of which Call Me by Your Name is not made—it’s very simple in the filming—but an idea that is behind the material, and he knows that I’m going to explore each and every frame of it. Since we’ve worked together for 25 years, I know what the things are that he likes the most. I really know. I’ve been developing this instinct over more than two decades, and he never goes for the simple path.
At the same time, this doesn’t mean that he goes for the weird thing. There is a sentence by Bernardo Bertolucci that said that when he shoots, he allows reality to get into the set, meaning that he doesn’t like to plan everything and repeat the shot as many times as he needs in order to get exactly what he imagined. Luca is the one who likes things getting into the frame. For instance, an actor coughing—that’s a thing where he says, “Okay, that’s real.” I know when to capture things he likes in the material, and we try to put a thought behind our choices.
Bearing in mind that you were shooting on film, what was the shooting ratio?
We came from A Bigger Splash, where I think he shot more than 100 hours in first and second unit. The movie was, at the very end, two hours long, so it was 1:50. Call Me by Your Name was way less. It probably was something like 1:25. The first cut was long—three hours and 20 minutes. Then, we got to two hours and 10.
Usually, the first cut is my favorite until the very last ones. All the intermediate ones don’t really satisfy me because it can be quite a struggling process to get to that. The first cut usually is very beautiful. The four-hour cut of A Bigger Splash was fantastic because it was so immersive. You had a similar feeling with Call Me by Your Name, where you could lose yourself in the story and the images.
What was the thinking when it came to the rhythms of the film? It really feels like it captures the feeling of life in Crema.
Technically speaking, the set-up is very important, because once you set up the pace at the very beginning, the audience doesn’t expect that they’re going to get a fast movie with lots of action. We just allowed ourselves first to work on the raw footage, and allow performances to blossom without too much intervention. But I hate when it comes to even the possibility of looking self-indulgent. There’s a reason why, at the same time, we were very sharp in choices sometimes, especially with music editing.
This is one thing I love to do, balancing this kind of lounging in shots, but at the same time, always saying, “Okay, we know what you’re doing.” So it’s not like every shot will be a long, one-shot sequence. “Lose yourself in it and don’t ask too much. Enjoy, thank you very much, bye-bye.” No, it was more like always trying to surprise the audience. There is a kind of, Buddhists would say the middle path, in between auteur moviemaking, where you expect, at least in the jokes about auteur moviemaking, shots to be long and to get slightly bored, and at the same time telling a story in the most appropriate way.
It came quite naturally, I must say. We had references—French movies from the ‘80s, Bertolucci movies. But one of the best inspirations was Maurice Pialat’s À nos amours, in which sometimes, there are changes in the pace and in the storytelling, fast and unexplained. For instance, after 20 minutes of real time, somewhere in the movie, in the 21st minute more or less, all of a sudden they are in Paris in autumn, and there is no explanation at all. This is the style of the movie. We always think that the audience should have an active role instead of being passive and letting everything be explained to them.
What was it like to live in the small town of Crema with your below-the-line collaborators while the film was being made? It must have amplified the sense of family that already existed between you.
I’ve been kidnapped for 25 years now by Guadagnino. He steals your life—directors do this kind of thing. But since we’re really good friends, we’ve made four movies almost in a row, one produced and three cut in Lombardia, meaning Crema and Milano. So when we were shooting Call Me by Your Name, as soon as she finished school, my daughter came and stayed with me 10 days.
Crema is a small town where an 11-year-old can be around on her own without the dangers of a big town, and Luca is a kind of godfather to my daughter. It’s a family experience, and then new friends came, like all the actors. The last night, the weirdest thing happened. Luca was DJing the wrap party—I’d never seen him doing that—and we went to eat together with the actors. It was raining all the time, by the way. I must say, it was never like that. I had a very good time.
What was the approach to sexuality in the edit? Armie Hammer has suggested that some nudity was reined in during post.
Not really. What you see is, more or less, what you get. There maybe was a glimpse of something here and there, but Luca has been shooting movies in which sexuality has been extremely explicit. If you think about I Am Love, there’s female nudity, and in A Bigger Splash, Ralph Fiennes is constantly naked in front of the camera. Constantly. So he has never been a prude about sexuality.
But if you want my personal opinion, I think that explicit sex scenes would have been a little out of place in this story. Luca calls it, and I agree, a kind of family movie. I don’t even think about it necessarily as a gay love story. For me, it’s a love story. And it’s very idyllic, so maybe there could have been nudity, but it was not essential to the storytelling.
The peach scene, Luca was quite worried before shooting it. Since I collaborated on the script, there was a moment in which he was asking me one day, “Should I shoot it? Should I cut it?” And I said, “Okay, everybody who read the book remembers the peach chapter. If you don’t shoot it, everybody will be very mad.” All the sex scenes were handled in a very delicate way, as you can imagine—in the villa, reduced crew. I was sometimes on the set—the actors were as [relaxed] as they can be. You don’t have that kind of performance if they’re not. The peach scene was a few takes, very simply edited. I think that Timothée was incredible. He gave so much to that scene.
Where are you now with Guadagnino’s next feature, Suspiria?
I’m in the 14th month of post. We’re going to finish in three months. If Call Me by Your Name is light, Suspiria is darkness. I wouldn’t even say “sun and moon”—I would say “sun, and no light.” It’s a very dark movie, but very energetic. Sayombhu is again the cinematographer but the editing is completely different.
You’ve worked with Dario Argento. Will it be quite different from the original?
I cut three for Argento, including the third installment of the Three Mothers trilogy, and the movies are very different. While Dario was playing with this homage to German Expressionism, but in technicolor, à la Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes, this one is more realistic—Fassbinderian, in a way—and very Guadagnino, too.