Battle of the sexes

Luca Guadagnino made a lot of movie before he attained indie clout with films distributed domestically starting with I Am Love (2009); Guadagnino also makes a lot of short films.


His better films include A Bigger Splash, Suspiria, and Bones and All, and Call Me By Your Name.


Guadagnino’s latest film Challengers actually reminds of a Truffaut film and not just because of a Jules et Jim love triangle. There was an insouciant attitude of the characters that calmed the otherwise heavy vibes they at first exude.


The trinity of Zendaya, Mike Faist (the upcoming The Bikeriders, the underseen Pinball, and the remake of West Side Story), and Josh O’Connor (current arthouse fave La Chimera) each take over the film at various times. There’s a definite Euro-vibe that the characters emulate. All three are tennis players at different stages of the game.


The narrative construction cannot be gleamed upon a single viewing. The action takes place over a dozen years with a lot of flashbacks, flash forwards, and hot flashes.

It’s actually refreshing to see young actors playing a role where they age in a manner realistic to their ability to just act older rather than applying make-up.


Guadagnino is not above over indulging in his obsession with on-screen cock as opposed to pussy. There’s tasteful locker room nudity. Zendaya actually says the word pussy many times, it’s like a mantra. “You fucking pussy” is a typical reply of her character to either of the other two leads, both of whom she dated, one she married.

Guadagnino moves the camera with abandon. At one point the point-of-view actually becomes the path of the tennis ball. It’s a zooming back and forth shot, probably digitally manipulated, and tears up the screen. (Recall the bowling-ball-point-of-view in The Big Lebowski?)The sound of the ball bouncing off a racket sounds like a gunshot.

Did I mention there’s an absolutely slaying soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross? Thumper nightclub beats just erupt whenever a scene weaves from normal dialogue to sexual innuendo. You kind of want Challengers to delve in this space and with regularity it does.

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