MOVIE RATING: 5 stars (A+)
(Updated September 29, 2011)
I’ve been procrastinating for 2 months on this blog…I didn’t want to “screw it up” by blogging about it too casually. This film has left an impression on my heart and in my mind so powerfully that it intimidates me to even write about it for fear of detracting from the greatness of the movie. I saw director Tom Ford’s debut masterpiece A Single Man (2009) for the first time the day it was released on DVD (July 6, 2010). I was anxiously awaiting it since I first heard about it last year and saw the trailer. I’m a huge admirer of Fashion Designer Tom Ford and when I heard he had made his first film as a director, I just knew I wanted to SEE his movie no matter what because I knew that a guy with that much style and slick image would have to create a visually stunning movie. And of course he did!
A Single Man was filmed poetically on an old Kodak film stock that Ford and Director of Photography Eduard Grau bought the final spools of wherever they could find them around the world. That passion and craft for making this film shows in every single grainy frame of the movie from when you press play until the final credit. I’m always blogging about how visually stunning many movies are…but this one truly represents how I personally see the world and its beauty…in somber and subtle poetic detail. I find beauty in the simple details like the character George does in this movie, played astonishingly by actor Colin Firth. This is one movie where all the still images I share still don’t do the film justice. You just have to see this film to revel in its incredible visual beauty. Ford’s use of heavy grain from the film stock works perfectly to help convey the old school 1962 time period in which this film takes place. I bought the bluray version of the movie and it’s one of those rare new movies where “high definition” doesn’t really improve the movie. This movie is all about what 35mm film is to cinema, like vinyl records are to music. The perfections and imperfections are what make it great.
If you’ve read anything about the story of this movie, then you know it’s a serious character-driven drama…my favorite kind of movie. This movie is for people who truly appreciate the power and ability of cinema to capture the human condition and its thoughts and emotions. It’s not a “feel good” movie, and yet it made me feel alive and good about film. This is a story about lost love. Colin Firth plays George, a gay English Professor in his late 40s or 50s, who loses the love of his life, Jim, played beautifully by Matthew Goode. The movie is a day in the life of George as he prepares to kill himself at the end of it. His heart is so broken that he’s lost hope and his drive to live. And yet on the final day of his life, he rediscovers a passion for living through the people he interacts with, like student Kenny (played by Nicholas Hoult) and best friend Charley (played stunningly by Julianne Moore). And he rediscovers the beauty and color in the details of his life and the world around him. I won’t give away the ending, but I’ll tell you that it is not what I expected…and yet it seemed perfectly expected after seeing it.
The production design for this film is perfect. From the sets and locations to the costumes and props, everything was perfectly chosen by Ford and his team of craftsmen. I just love George’s black eyeglasses and his impeccable clothing. The house that George lives in is a beautiful piece of mid-century modern architecture combining both simplicity and warmth. Of course George’s partner Jim was an architect, as the movies are so fond of using as a profession for characters. As an Architect, I will admit that I love the admiration the movies have for architects…and a part of me always lights up when I hear or see someone playing an architect in a film.
After watching A Single Man back on July 6, I immediately bought it on bluray the next day, along with the soundtrack from iTunes. I instantly knew this film belonged not only in my movie and music collections but in my Top 100 movies of all time. Music Composers Abel Korzeniowski and Shigeru Umebayashi crafted the most incredible poetic soundtrack for this film. The opening credit sequence starts with the song “Drowning”, which is an eery orchestral piece that’s perfectly accompanied to the naked underwater images of Colin Firth “drowning”. But the first song of the soundtrack titled “Stillness of the Mind”, is the music that makes my soul weep every time I hear it. The violin solo and backing orchestra are so tender and emotional in their playing of this lovingly crafted piece of music. It just pulls feeling out of its listeners and makes them pay attention to both the joy and sadness within themselves. This soundtrack was grossly overlooked by the Academy…it should have been nominated for an Oscar for Best Music (Original Score).
To be honest, this movie was grossly overlooked in several categories by the Oscars, except for Colin Firth’s nomination for Best Actor. A Single Man should have been nominated for Art Direction, Cinematography, and Editing as well. I think the main reason this film was overlooked by the Academy is the same reason it was overlooked by the public. On the surface, it’s a “gay” movie about a gay man and was directed by a gay man. And yet this movie has nothing really to do with sex. It could as easily be told about a straight man. It’s simply a story about lost love. But mainstream America is still unable to see past things that appear to be gay or have a gay feel to them, and A Single Man is simply a victim of that bias. But I have a feeling this film will stand the test of time and that people will discover it and appreciate it over the years to come. And whatever next film Tom Ford makes will surely pull more fans into his work who’ll discover this treasure as well. I for one am extremely anxious to see what masterpiece Ford crafts for his second feature film. His debut was brilliant and will be hard to live up to. But if anyone can do it, Tom Ford seems to be the man. He’s a perfectionist like myself and simply won’t settle for much less. He’s switched from focusing on fashion to film as his passion, which he has said is where he can express himself more fully. And ironically, he was trained as an architect like myself. This film was built like an architect would build it.