Tuesday, 4 May 2010

A Single Man (2009)

There is no elegant or clean way of shooting yourself in the mouth. That is one of the lessons to be learnt from A Single Man. Tom Ford’s debut has been widely criticised for its stylistic detail, an obvious influence from the directors fashion background but so what, it features some of the most stunning cinematography you will see and Ford would have been a fool had he not utilised his obvious gifted eye for aestheticism. Set in 1960’s Los Angeles and coloured perfectly in custard creams and monochrome blocks, you can almost smell the decade and feel the heat emanating from the screen.

Colin Firth is not one of my favourite actors. I disliked him in Love Actually and Bridget Jones and was so embarrassed by his performance in Mama Mia that the blood vessels in my face almost burst. However, as George, he doesn’t even look like the Colin Firth I have despised. He looks as cool as a cucumber straight from the fridge. The Tom Ford suits and specs are responsible for that but behind the accessories there is some incredible acting. George is told of his long-term partners death on the telephone via the decade specific tones of Mad Men’s Don Draper (Jon Hamm).The scene is acted with beautiful subtlety, no flailing arms, no dramatic crumble to the ground, no screaming or shouting, just a face that embodies shock, loss, love and despair concurrently, creating the image of genuine devastation and triggering the imminent suicide mission.

The soundtrack takes you exactly where the images tell you to be and when it stops abruptly such as in the spontaneous night-swimming scene, you delve further into the depths of Joe’s unpredictable despair. The tick-tock-ing sound of demise comes to a literal standstill when Joe’s watch stops and he is consumed by the temptation offered by his student Kenny (Nicholas Hoult), not sexual temptation, as suggested, but the temptation of continuing to live. A true testament to Hoult’s outstanding acting ability is that he has disassociated himself completely from any of his former creations becoming barely recognisable as the blip on George’s Journeys end.

Charley (Julianne Moore) is a gloriously adorned walnut whip of a woman and her scenes feel like a cigarette break with a restrained drama queen. The supporting cast all deliver perfect performances. Matthew Goode gives a brief but memorable insight into the intensity of George and Jim’s relationship and the Strunk’s next door are the perfect image of a 1960’s nuclear family. The movie is overall void of prejudice. This is not a story of a man coming to terms with what and who he is. A scene with Jennifer, the little girl next-door, proves that the protagonist knows and is entirely comfortable with his place in the world even though those surrounding him are not.

It will be interesting to see where Tom Ford goes from here and if his stylistic abilities stretch outside of sixties traditionalism but for his first film Ford has created a classic, which in its style and grace is comparable to Far From Heaven (Dir. Todd Haynes. 2002). On paper A Single Man is a study of suicide, loss and drastic decisions but Tom Ford has utilised his creativity to deliver a stunning and unforgettable portrait of fate.

1 comment:

  1. BRAVO dude. Loved this film, and yeah, he made a beautiful film but it was also so subtle. Amazing perfomances. And the bit where he buries his face in the dog and says it smells like buttered toast...totally got me! x