A Single Man (2009) Directed by Tom Ford

We went to the last standing independent cinema in Helsinki to see A Single Man. There were twelve people in the audience and Nick's candy bag, which could be heard by all of us. It is a much more complete and enveloping experience to watch a movie on the big screen and in the darkness of the cinema, rather than sitting on the sofa at home where you can interrupt the film for any insignificant reason.

My favorite moment is coming out of the cinema into the city after the film is over. The longer you can stay silent the better. The transition from the film's reality to the reality of a Friday night in Helsinki can be significant in life. Sometimes I have come out from the darkness a little transformed. Permanently affected. This time I was disappointed and got involved in verbal analysis much sooner than I would wish to.

A Single Man was very enjoyable visually. It was like reading the best edition of an interior decoration magazine and reading Vogue at the same time. Overkill on style. I yearned after many a lamp and a table top, I joined willingly in the romance with the curly telephone chord.

Unfortunately, as the movie unfolded it became clearer and clearer that the main characters would remain distant, too distant to really care for. Even the central theme, death, could not wrench enough emotion out of me. Something is wrong if the main character is trying to commit suicide but I am admiring his kitchen cupboards.

The ending of A Single Man was simply badly written. It is as if everybody involved in making the movie just gave up and decided to ask a five-year-old psychic what will happen to us all. Banal.
We will all die. And still, I agree with Tom Ford, it does matter what wood the cutting board is in the kitchen and how my dress drapes over my shoulder while I'm still here.

"Fashion, turn to the left, fashion, turn to the right...We are the goon squad and we're coming to town...beep beep..."

I couldn't tell you what an item of Tom Ford clothing looks like, but I do remember his "controversial" Vanity Fair cover. A Single Man is his debut feature, he also co-wrote and co-produced this picture.  The nods to Hitchcock are littered throughout, shot after shot referencing the master of suspense. The look of this film is amazing. Stylized to the max, costume is exquisite. Is it possible that people in the 1960's were this hip? The clothing on display in this movie is carefully presented with the immaculate eye that only a fashion guru such as Ford could display. Unfortunately, in several scenes the homo-erotic imagery descends to that of a Calvin Klein advert.

The film starts promisingly. Will this be a deep sermon on bereavement? Will this film tackle the permissive secret society of upper-middle class homosexuality head on?  Again, Ford misses a great opportunity here. This is a very conventional and cliched look at homosexuality. I do understand why the various young pretty boys are attracted to Colin Firth's George. It's  Mr Darcy, who wouldn't want to get it on with him! The sense of cruelty that George is not acknowledged by his dead partners family is palpable. Yet in Ford's world there seems no other reproach other than this for being a gay man in 1960's LA. Was it really this tolerant then? There is a strong sense of fantasy in this film, so maybe Ford is dreaming in ideals?

Firth is incredible in this film, he has had glowing reviews for his portrayal of George. I just can't shake Darcy from the equation. Or his contribution to the terrible Mamma Mia! So, I don't believe in his gay man.

Despite a woeful ending, some wooden acting and some of the other shortcomings mentioned above, there is plenty that works in A Single Man. A great atmosphere, the already mentioned framing of the film. There is a sense of a dreamlike quality in George's world, also a darker voyeuristic sensibility is touched upon. This is a good debut from Tom Ford. There is enough here to suggest that greatness is around the corner.


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