James Ivory's Oscar win proves age is just a number

TOPSHOT-US-OSCARS-PRESSROOM, james-ivory-afp Writer James Ivory poses in the press room with the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for Call Me by Your Name | AFP

One of the best things about the Academy Awards this year was James Ivory's win. At 89, the filmmaker-writer became the oldest nominee for the Oscars and won one too. Probably, a message for all who are passionate about their work—age is just a number.

Unpretentious, as he looked with a shirt emblazoned with the face of the lead actor, Timothee Chalamet—Elio from the film Call Me By Your Name—that he has written and produced, and also planned to direct it initially. The octogenarian adapted the screenplay from André Aciman’s novel of the same name. Besides being a coming of age drama about first love, Call Me By Your Name is a gay love story that is seductive and overwhelming at the same time. The writing is so fresh that not for a moment you look at it as anything but love. With all the support and love it got from cinephiles, the film directed by Luca Guadagnino is ought to be remembered as one of the greatest love stories of the times.

The others nominated in the category were Mudbound, The Disaster Artist, Molly’s Game, and Logan.

Call Me By Your Name is about Elio, who is entering adulthood, and Oliver, a graduate who comes to stay with Elio’s family as a guest. Elio discovers his sexuality, orientation and the power of love as he gets closer to Oliver over the duration of his stay. The film was not just a contender in the Best Adapted Screenplay category. It was one of the most lauded films at the 90th Academy Awards. However, The Shape of Water, again a story of unusual love, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri—a mom’s journey to find her daughter's murderer leading to many more life discoveries—gained more buzz over the last few weeks.

Ivory’s award, however, was certain because of the depth he brought to the screenplay. With so much love and admiration that the film got world over, it is not a surprise that Ivory made a record as he received his first Academy award at 89— the oldest to get an Oscar. Previously, the director-writer has been nominated thrice in the best director category for the films—A Room With a View (1985), Howard’s End (1992), and The Remains of the Day (1993).

An American, Ivory, who wears his gay identity openly, has worked extensively with Indian-born film producer Ismail Merchant—his partner of many years professionally and personally. Besides finding a constant partner in German-born British-American writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. The three were principals in Merchant Ivory Productions that was formed in 1961.

And thus his acceptance speech couldn't have been complete without their mention. Merchant passed away in 2005, while Jhabvala in 2013. Ivory said that his work with Merchant led him to this award.

“My rule number one for a screenwriter who adapts a novel is first to thank the author, André Aciman, who wrote the story about first love and is here tonight,” Ivory said in his acceptance speech.

He continued, thanking his partners, “I wouldn’t be standing up here without the inspired help I received from my life’s partners, who are gone.”

Ivory began his film career with a film on Venice and its art culture. He had gone to Venice as a 22-year-old tourist and "fell in love with the city". He went to other places, but returned to Venice in 1952. As a part of his thesis for the California School where he was studying film, he wanted to tell the story of the city through its art. In a 2015 video interview, he said, "With a 16 mm camera, a Bolex that I had bought, a tripod— no one helping me, no crew, no sound crew—and I am not an artist. But I said, my stars are going to be the great painters of Venice like Caroaccio, Gentille Bellini, and Veronese." He stayed in Venice in 1952-53 and shot the film by joining the academia there. Later though, he had to hire a light crew. His effort was lauded even then by experts who appreciated the details that went into it, especially the close shot of the artworks.

In a December 2017 interview with GoldDerby, talking about writing Call Me By Your Name, he said that the first thing he liked about the story was that it was set in Italy. "The story appealed to me, everybody has had a first love. It has its exciting side. I also like the milieu: the kind of family it was, sort of international family. It sort of was not, what I consider a Merchant-Ivory film; it has (rather) got a Merchant-Ivory big house in it, and it has a family which speaks several language and then a different language to the servants. And then it has one of those locations that you see in several Merchant-Ivory movies. All of that was very appealing," he said.

Earlier this year, for Call Me By Your Name (that was nominated in four categories at the Oscars), Ivory also bagged the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Writers Guild of America, the Critics' Choice Awards among others. Ivory, now the oldest Oscar recipient ever, has broken the record of Ennio Morricone—he won the Oscar for best original score for The Hateful Eight (Quentin Tarantino) at 87 in 2015.