a film by Tom Ford
2009 | 101 mins | US
›› A Single Man
an exquisite visual fabric on love and the pain of grief
A Single Man by Tom Ford In an astonishing directorial debut, esteemed fashion designer Tom Ford dazzles his audience with a stylised collection of homoerotic cinematic encounters that mark his most personal project to date. And boy does the quality show.

Not least of which is courtesy of the commanding lead performance from Colin Firth who here stars as George Falconer; a closeted professor of words living in the Cuban missile crisis era of ‘60s America who has found love in the arms of a younger man named Jim (Matthew Goode), their long-term relationship of sixteen years being as assured as day follows night, that is until a ‘phone call from Jim’s cousin informs him that the one he holds most dear has died in a car crash. Effectively barred from the ‘family only’ and here think ‘heteros only’ funeral and tired of putting on 'the face of George' that the world expects to see, his despondent life thereafter alternates between social interludes with his best friend and one-time lover Charley (Julianne Moore); a fellow Brit who masks her own unhappiness by way of the gin bottle and lectures to university students whose minds, like his, are on other things. Only in George’s case, a day of contemplation descends into acts of putting his life in order, suicide fashion.

A Single Man by Tom Ford And if all this sounds kind of depressing, then fear not, for Ford alongside screenwriter David Scearce have taken the novel by Christopher Isherwood and delivered a film that if anything speaks of enjoying to the full the joys of life, as we come to witness George finally living life in the present, sampling those ‘joie du vie’ moments that we all too often are seemingly too busy, to relish. Yet whilst Julianne Moore (of Savage Grace fame) is on fine form throughout as the girl whose ideal man turned out to be gay, it is a series of remembrances of George’s life with Jim, together with his encounters with Spanish street hustler Carlos (former Ford model Jon Kortajarena) and gay student Kenny (Nicholas Hoult of About a Boy and UK TV‘s Skins credit), both of whom are only too willing to get to know the man behind the image, that form the homosexual backbone of this work, one in which flashback sequences burn with the radiant glow of life, leaving the present a deliberate bland visual existence, until ... well that would be saying.

Suffice to say, that when you’ve seen as many gay films as you can shake a critical keyboard at, then you get used to works of varying quality; from those that outshine their modest, if almost non-existent budget, to those that even when backed by the multi-million dollar might of Hollywood, still fail to deliver the goods. Yet every once in a while, along comes a film that has the words ‘quality guaranteed’ stamped all over it. And thankfully this is one such occasion, as Ford's keen attention to detail is clearly evident from day one, delighting as he does in the compositional fabric of his piece, with scenes of surrealism, drama, homoeroticism, tragedy and comedy of both the light and dark variety added to a mix that is dominated by the universal themes of the grieving process and living life for all its worth.

And whilst Dan Bishop's stunning production design, Abel Korzeniowski’s hunting string score and Eduard Grau's lush cinematography are of note, it is Colin Firth who in a career defining performance here takes centre stage to vividly portray the meaning of love, the pain of grief and the inner mind of a man hurting so much over the death of his male lover, that life for him seemingly cannot go on. Yet this is also a work about fear; the fears held by society of minority groups, fears held by yourself, indeed the fear held at the time in which the story was written, of being openly gay or even gay full stop. And whilst this exquisite visual treat may not prove to be the crossover film that Brokeback Mountain was, even if the scenario of homosexual love and the loss of one’s partner mirror both, it certainly is one of the most stylistically moving gay features to hit the screen in a long time. A pure triumph for Ford and a sheer artistic delight to watch. Need more be said?

Apart from congratulations to Colin Firth for winning the BAFTA® film award for Best Leading Actor for his performance in ‘A Single Man’ | Sun.21.Feb.2010.

Gay Visibility - overt. 
Nudity - bare-arsed cheek. 
Overall - file under ... 5 stars. 
UK Cinema Release - 12th February, 2010.
starring: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode, Nicholas Hoult, Jon Kortajarena, Lee Pace,
Paulette Lamori, Ryan Simpkins, Ginnifer Goodwin, Teddy Sears, Paul Butler,
Aaron Sanders, Keri Lynn Pratt and Brad Benedict as the Tennis Hunk
Copyright 2010 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #264
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