Saturday, July 17, 2010
Tom Ford's 'A Single Man'
I finally watched a movie last week I have been waiting to see for a long time, Tom Ford's 'A Single Man'. For the sake of this post, let me start with the end. I intensely disliked the last several minutes of this movie very much. Yes I can why the particular ending was chosen and yes it was rather dramatic but I still hated it. There is something almost dishonest about taking an audience through a movie all about 'a choice' only to have that choice never get made. Ironic yes, satisfying...no. But...if I choose to end the movie, in my mind anyway, with George lifting the blanket off Kenny to discover the gun...then I can say I just watched a nearly perfect motion picture.
Some might think nearly perfect might be a bit of a stretch but let me give you my reasons. My favorite movies are not ones that involve action or even specific scenes for that matter. My favorite movies are ones that focus on moments. From the minute 'A Single Man' begins it is a series of moments, some important, most not, in George's journey.
Colin Firth inhabits George fully and through his talent, his eyes, his voice, we live each moment with him. It really does not matter the size of the moment. Whether it is attracting the eye of a hot student, discovering the only bread you have in the house is frozen, waving hello to the woman next door or learning your lover just died. Each moment is given equal attention and equal meaning and each moment lets us know exactly what George is feeling.
When I previously read reviews for 'A Single Man' there was a lot written about this being Tom Ford's first movie and that it was mostly Style over Substance. The movie was without a doubt stylish, I expected nothing less. To me this movie had more substance than most of the movies I have seen in years. I guess if your used to see movies about Wars and Dinosaurs, Space Ships and Murders, 'A Single Man' might seem lacking in substance or story. Most movies have you forgetting them before you make it out of the theatre. 'A Single Man' haunted me for days, still is in fact.
I think the reason the movie hit me so hard is that to me it through a commonly accepted theory on it's ear. Most people believe that it is...
'Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all'
'A Single Man' throws this theory out the window. George's great love for 16years has tragically ended. The ending of the love also ended much for George. His desires, his ability to find any joy out of life. Most of George died with his lover Jim. His unmanageable pain is what is leading him to want to end his own life. I certainly have felt like George. As much as I look back on the main relationship in my life (it was only 7 years, not 16) as the best time of my life...in some ways it has made the years since some of the worst. Not everyone ends relationships only to jump into another. Some end wonderfully relationships never to find another. There is something about this pain that I relate to and find very profound. I think it is why 'A Single Man' hit me with such an emotional punch.
Tom Ford and Colin First made each moment of 'A Single Man' a beautiful portrait, each able to stand on their own. As much as I love Julianne Moore (she really is one of the best actress's alive) I somehow did not really enjoy her scenes with Firth. Their first scene together, as he rushes to her after the death of Jim (Matthew Goode) was great, but after that I found that her character just got in the way of George's journey. That may have been the point...
Colin was at his best in scenes where George is either alone or with a minor character like his neighbour or the neighbour's children (such great scenes!). Whether it be threatening to kill the boy next door or flirting with a secretary at the university, these moments are the ones that are masterfully tied together by Ford to create what I loved so much about the movie. I think that is why I disliked the ending so much. Up to that point the movie was a series of moments. The last scene felt almost as if they inserted a scene within the moments and therefore it simply did not fit.
My favorite moments or scenes from 'A Single Man' were the brief scenes between George and Carlos (beautifully played by Jon Kortajarena). Their brief interactions were almost like a movie within a movie. Beautifully written, beautifully acted and beautifully shot. If I were Tom Ford I would be writing a sequel with these scenes inserted in the middle of the movie. I would then features the life of Carlos and his journey to America before them and his life and after.
Like all of the best art, 'A Single Man' was like no movie I have seen in awhile. A throwback to an era of film aking that focused on character over plot. Thank you Tom Ford!