Wednesday, 24 February 2010

A Single Man - Dir. Tom Ford

If you didn’t know that director Tom Ford was a fashion designer, you probably would have guessed his former occupation while watching his feature-film directorial debut in ‘A Single Man’. At times the style and cinematography are oh-so reminiscent of those French perfume television advertisements which make little sense to anybody outside the fashion oeuvre. However Colin Firth isn’t here to push a bottle of Chanel into the audience’s faces, instead he puts forth a magnificent performance as a man trapped in the past who believes that the future holds nothing for him to live for after the death of his lover. While the direction is competent and at times stylistically quite beautiful, it is the performance of Colin Firth which brings alive this adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s 1964 novel of the same name.

“Just get through the goddamn day.” Situated in Southern California, a month after the Cuban Missile Crisis in November 1962, George (Colin Firth) is a man on the brink of suicide. After the death of his lover Jim (Matthew Goode) in a car accident eight months ago, George fails to acknowledge that there is any meaning in life. Constantly dwelling on the grief of the past and never wanting to touch upon the uncertain future, ‘A Single Man’ follows George throughout a day in suburban California as he travels from his day job as University Professor to the home of his close-friend Charley (Julianne Moore), before meeting one his students Kenny (Nicholas Hoult) who seems to understand George for who he is.

When you take onboard a project in which the main brunt of the narrative is focused around the inner workings, the inner-psychological nature, of a man battling the issues of grief, repetition, loneliness and nihilism, you need a strong leading actor or actress in which to convey the character at hand, and Colin Firth does this perfectly. Without his beautiful, enigmatic performance as George, the man caught in an unsustainable past, this film wouldn’t necessarily fall flat, but it would require a heavy amount of restoration to its narrative. Firth sustains a quite minimalist story for over one-hour and thirty minutes and never lets up. While Nicholas Hoult, Matthew Goode and Julianne Moore provide the perfect backing ensemble, however it would have been interesting to have been able to see further character development within Moore’s character Charley and how her and George’s life crossed paths in the past.

With that said, it must also mentioned that despite Firth’s performance, director Tom Ford, cinematographer Eduard Grau and Art Director Ian Phillips provide much of the stylistic visual spectacle by simply choosing to linger on George’s pain. While the contemporary shooting locations and angles can at times become tiresome, the true genius is in Ford, Grau and Phillip’s ability to simply linger on George’s pain. In the scene in which George is deciding how comfortable to he wishes to be while committing suicide, juggling between the idea of merely laying on the bed or becoming engulfed by a sleeping bag, the camera silently loiters catching every uncomfortable moment and emotion drawing the audience further into the life of a man with no nothing to live for. While the sets and locations themselves are impeccable put together and create a brilliant aesthetic backdrop to Firth’s musings as George.

Delicate, stylish, and at times disturbingly funny, ‘A Single Man’ is a stimulating exploration of a character’s psyche and how we can all never let the notion of grief go, no matter how hard we try to leave it behind. Driven by Colin Firth, with an all-star cast behind him, Tom Ford should be incredibly delighted with how his first feature-film has turned out.
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