Wednesday, 10 March 2010
Have you ever wandered around an art gallery and had to sit down because you were overwhelmed by the beauty of a particular picture or piece of sculpture? That is the feeling I had through my viewing of A Single Man..though fortunately, I was sitting down already. A film that was rather scathingly called, "Bereavement by Dior" to me was an eloquent and yes, undeniably stylish debut from director Tom Ford about the trauma of losing someone you love.
Based on the 1964 novel by Christopher Isherwood, the single man of the title is George Falconer, an ex-patriate Englishman living in Los Angeles, a bespectacled college professor teaching English Literature. I must add that I don't remember a single one of my professors looking like the teaching staff at this place. Seriously, I know it's 1962 so I will allow for the wonderful clothes, hair and make-up but I doubt a genuinely haggard, sleep deprived, hungover or (let's be honest) ugly person would have made it past the velvet rope into Tom Ford's film. Did students at your university look like these two?
Shock and grief have made George depend on his routines so that he can conform to the image of what society thinks he should be. His repressed English mannerisms have become accentuated..perfectly pressed suits, buffing his brogues to a shine, drawers full of immaculate, identical shirts. One of my most favourite points in the film was when George lays out his clothes to be buried in and doesn't forget a detail right down to specifying the correct knot on his tie. (A Windsor knot if you must know).
Tom Ford speaking on The Film Programme said that in his mind, his back story for George was that he had family money and an income from that which would certainly make sense as the clothes alone (never mind the stunning modernist house, car etc) would have taken up a college professor's salary. His film never ceases to be swooningly lovely: especially the scene in which George shares a cigarette with a beautiful Spanish boy, swathed in the smoggy redness of an LA dusk. But that black-and-white flashback showing George and Jim sunbathing nude on some rugged and frankly uncomfy-looking rocks – that is just outrageously ad-like..though yes..still undeniably stunning.
Julianne Moore plays George's best friend and confidante Charley, a fellow English expat and semi-alcoholic divorcee. After her appearances in Todd Haynes's Far From Heaven and Tom Kalin's Savage Grace, this role underlines a slight gaycentric typecasting for Moore, but like Firth she inhabits it with absolute confidence, and their friendship is touching and warm, even when George is furious to realise that Charley, in spite of everything, believes in her heart that heterosexual marriage is more real than gay partnership. Again top marks for hair and make-up and a fabulous black and white maxi dress with a cape.
To me, to judge the film purely on style takes away from not only the extraordinary performance by Firth but also the sensitive direction and adaptation achieved by Ford. Can't deny I loved the clothes though...and I will be buying it on dvd if only to learn how to achieve Julianne Moore's superb beehive.
UPDATE! After last night's fabulous Mad Men where Don and Betty went on a mini-break Rome (as I will be doing shortly)..another fabulous beehive to emulate....