Sunday, February 7, 2010
Tom Ford's A Single Man: A Review
Tom Ford's film A Single Man impressed me. This is the fashion expert's directorial debut and he does indeed deliver. Ford not only directed the picture but he also adapted Michael Isherwood's book and co-wrote the screenplay. It appears that this hands-on approach to film-making worked for him. The visual poetry was something sharp you'd expect out of a Ridley Scott or a Fellini a-la 8 1/5. A Single Man is a beautiful and beautifully filmed film. Actually, it is so good and succinct that it's bound to confuse the senses. Seeing it only once might not be enough to process it fully as it has a bit of a Totalkunstwerk feel.
I've thought for a while now that what makes Tom Ford fascinating to me is not his ability to be privy to people's fashion tendencies, and most importantly, their purchase inclinations, but rather how well he translates and adapts straight lines to the human form. Ford gets human form. More specifically, he gets the masculine form. An underwater Firth, for instance, might just make one think of Michaelangelo's David. I cannot think of more poetic clothing than Ford's beautifully and minimalistically cut slim pants and fitted white shirts. And Colin Firth proves to be a good model for Ford's fitted suits, body-fitting white shirts, and black Oxfords. As a matter of fact, Colin Firth's character of George is very much reminiscent of a black-and-white wearing Marcello Mastroiani in Fellini's 8 1/5. Even their spectacles match almost perfectly. I was much amused by the overall aesthetic similarity, as a matter of fact. But then again, it's only natural that Ford would tip the hat to Fellini a bit after having worked in Italy for a while.
In this film Ford creates an arena for the treatment of social minorities in the Los Angeles of the 1960's. He manages to translate the climate of subversive homophobia and the pre-Civil Rights movement almost too effortlessly. He manages to say much for economizing on speech and splurging on gazing and body language. Another plus of the film is the cast. Matthew Goode, who has made some good cinematic decisions in his career, plays the character of confident Jim who lives life on his own terms not because he can necessarily but because he chooses to. Another most suitable supplement to this film is Julianne Moore's character of Charlie whose sort-of-marginal aesthetics situate her well as a kind of visual minority in the film.
Ford's managed to capture Colin Firth's heteronormative sex appeal and apply to a wider all-gendered context. Colin Firth in a white shirt is as appealing in A Single Man as he is in the pond-swimming scene in BBC's Pride and Prejudice. And herein lies the director's actual cachet. He gets visual appeal and he most certainly gets perception. It is no coincidence, after all, that Ford headed successfully Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent for a long time. I liked this film very well. I was expecting to be distracted and instead I found we had enough talking points for dinner. And that's always a plus on a Friday night.
graph per google image