Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Day In The Life of A Single Man

Now some people may realise that I have a curious obsession with a decade known as the 60s. I’m not that old –I was born 3 decades later- but my obsession is nonetheless real. The 60s were a time of great social and cultural change all over the world. We gained (some form of) independence from the English at that time and so did a lot of people. Movies were changing and so music, dress and the most iconic movement of the decade (even overshadowing the Civil Rights and Feminist movements) – the Hippies.

Hollywood and their ilk have had a particular fondness for the era recently, especially the earlier part of the decade, when everything they did was absolutely stylish. Mad Men is a testament to this but so is An Education a film I reviewed earlier and now A Single Man. Both films were contenders for this years Academy Awards. Incidentally the Cohen brother’s latest film A Serious Man is also set in the era.

A Single Man is Tom Ford’s directorial debut and boy what a debut! The movie is based on a book of the same title by Christopher Isherwood. First of all the visuals are phenomenal, the art direction and staging so meticulous and so elegant it hurts to watch. During the film I kept having the nagging feeling that there was something oddly familiar about the film. Again my mind snapped back to Mad Men. So I did a little research and as it turns out the film used the same set designers as the television show. The sexiest show on TV meets the sexiest movie of the year; it’s a sign I tell you! It also doesn’t hurt that Tom Ford directs the movie.

To fashion novices, Tom Ford was creative director at Gucci, lifting the company out of oblivion in the 90s and turned into the sweat shop mammoth of a brand it is today with typical American pragmatism, panache and an uncanny eye for style. He later left formed his eponymous label and formed a production company. And that’s the story of how Tom Ford conquered Hollywood.

Now onto the movie. The cast is star studded and undesputably English. Colin Firth plays George our prtoagonist an English professor at Californian university whose partner dies eight months earlier. Mathew Goode plays the dead boyfriend Jim. In typical existentialist fashion George looses the will (and colour) to live and decides to kill himself, no longer able to keep on living and he will himself to “Just get through the goddamn day”. The day is as meticulously structured as his tailored monochrome suites. Throughout the day a series of incidents break his monotony. One is a bronzed Pretty Young Thing in his class Skins veteran Nicholas Hoult, in an awkward self-conscious American accent. A Spanish hustler turned philosopher played by the beautiful Basque model Jon Kortajarena and his colourful English friend Charley played by Julianne Moore (in a more convincing accent, indeed the critics agree). The film is part running commentary, part flashback (in vivid burst of colour, achingly brief and refreshing) and part work of art, punctuated by lines of complete and utter dour such as:

Looking in the mirror staring back at me isn’t so much a face but a predicament staring back at me…

George’s predicament is being alive and alone but the question we’re forced to ask is are we ever completely alone? The connexions George has to the world are not ready to let go. As the film progresses the perfect “slightly stiff George” is replaced by a vivid spectrum of feelings and emotions. We come to pity him but more significantly we pity ourselves. Suddenly our lives take on new meaning as we are confronted by George’s impending mortality a perverse morbid fascination. He is one of us now, how easy is it then to end up like him? But as Carlos rightly puts it (in rolling Spanish of course):

Sometimes awful things have their own kind of beauty.

The movie is artsy without pretence (and an easy watch). Beautifully shot; the casting and set design impeccable and startlingly meticulous without being superfluous. Mr. Ford should be proud. Finally a queer movie that isn’t about being (politically) gay but rather about the issue that counts – the human connexion.

As you may come to notice I don’t give movies stars or a rating of any sort, this one gets top marks for all round quality. It feels like an Old Hollywood flick it’s hard to believe it was shot in under two weeks. Sometimes the shaky cam of modern films can tire the eyes (and the mind). Yes I’m talking to you The Heart Locker! Get the film on DVD soon. Grab the soundtrack to. Etta James’ Stormy Weather is a personal favourite.


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