Life’s a Peach: The Convergence of Sexuality and Class in Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name
Call Me by Your Name (2017) became famous for its “peach scene,” though the orchard around the Perlmans’ villa where this fruit thrives could not have grown on its own. Distinctions of class and a parasitism by the most affluent of their workers cultivate the paradise where director Luca Guadagnino sets the blossoming romance between Elio and Oliver. Apricots are a clear metaphor for desire here, yet their prolificacy is only possible through the invisibility and silent intervention of other food items, from peas to latkes to frozen chicken. Critics have pointed out the beauty of the Italian setting and its use as a temporary escape from heteronormative surveillance, as well as the way domestic workers flow in and out of scenes almost wordlessly. What these critics have missed is the connection these occurrences have in explaining how the working class have built (but do not benefit from) this heaven on Earth, where the young male lovers may permit their bodies to act without restraint. While queer and class theories inform this discussion, my primary vehicle for interpretation will be food, both for its prominent place in the movie and for the ways it parallels the class structure at the villa. I find the film quietly reflects on the levels of economic privilege and exploitation needed to experience the paradise it depicts, with the usurpation of food in many scenes helping to remind the audience of the stepping-stones Guadagnino asserts are required to access this more subversive space.