A Single Man’s director Tom Ford has a name cineaste may only know from an outset, and geeks are more than likely to draw a blank on. But Ford is best known for his work in fashion design, having successful reinvigorated the Gucci label, and by having a clothes line of his own. Becoming a director may suggest he’s a dilettante, but it’s also likely that something about Christopher Isherwood’s novel A Single Man touched him and he wanted to bring it to the big screen. The story of a professor (Colin Firth) contemplating suicide after the loss of his lover (Matthew Goode), and his plans for his final day alive, A Single Man is a gorgeous film that traffics in the caged nature of a homosexuality in the early sixties. Also starring Julianne Moore and Nicholas Hoult, it’s very much a character piece, and features a strong Oscar-nominated performance by Firth. My review of the Blu-ray of A Single Man after the jump.
George (Firth) is still in mourning. His lover Jim (Goode) died in a car wreck with one of their dogs, and he’s made the leap to ending his life, especially since Jim’s family wants nothing to do with him. The film then charts what should be his last twenty four hours. He goes to school and teaches as per normal, but he can’t help but get a little carried away in his lecture. Kenny (Hoult) – an astute and possibly gay young man – catches this and tries to talk with his professor, but they both seem to be circling their intentions. George is friends with Charley (Julianne Moore), who knows he’s gay, but still has a small hope they could possibly get entangled. As George goes about his day, he tries to put his affairs in order, but his run ins with others mess with his nerves for the final plunge.
Tom Ford has an eye, of that there is no mistaking. But like a lot of first-time filmmakers he steals obviously and readily, and makes his presence known. The film is heavily indebted to Wong Kar-wai, and Wong’s sense of lusciousness and design is evident throughout the film, though Ford does manage to make it partly his own. Most notably, Ford tries to use color gradients to show how the main character is feeling, which means that the color levels change from shot to shot when George is talking to Kenny, and at moments – when George feels a moment of warmth or whatever – the color returns to him and then may leave. It’s such a pronounced effect that it almost becomes admirable. It is using the language of cinema to suggest moods, but it’s also something that looks like a continuity gaffe. Sometimes the greatest cinematic innovations start as fuck ups, but this didn’t work for me.
And this is a well-0put together film, and it’s got a good pedigree, but it doesn’t click entirely. What saves it is that Collin Firth is legitimately great in this -he’s a great actor, period. Firth is someone who hasn’t had as many chances to shine as a number of his contemporaries, but he’s someone you can count on for great, thoughtful performances regardless of the film. And it’s interesting how Firth is the only main character to speak in his real accent, as Goode and Hoult are Brits playing Americans and Moore is an America playing British. I like that switch up, and there’s lot of good ideas here, but ultimately the ending feels pat, and the film works best in sequences.
Sony Picture’s Blu-ray of the film is immaculate. The film is presented widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 surround. This is a handsomely made film, and so the higher resolution does add something to a film like this. Extras are limited to an intelligent commentary by Tom Ford, and a highly stylized making of (16 min.) Bonus trailers are also included.