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Review: A Single Man

Thu 6 May 2010 In: Movies View at NDHA

A Single Man A film by Tom Ford Based on the Book by Christopher Isherwood (1904 – 1986) Starring: Colin Firth and Julianne Moore, with Mathew Goode, Nicholas Hoult, Ginnfer Goodwin Colin Firth and Julianne Moore in A Single Man Of all the novels of Christopher Isherwood A Single Man, written in 1965, was his favourite work and considered by many to be his best work. I have never read it but I have just seen the movie based on the book and I loved it! English Professor George Falconer (Colin Firth) a good-looking, charming and intelligent man has lost his younger, devoted male partner of 16 years, Kenny (Mathew Goode of the Brideshead Revisited movie). George, arising from his bed, dresses and prepares to become his immaculate self in readiness to get through yet another taunting day. This day however will not be like the others. He pulls his heavy black revolver from a drawer and places it on the desk top in front of him. We ponder on his unflustered determination for release and emotional oblivion as we watch his meticulous final preparations. But despite his quietly held secret and his late evening date with the gun, the day unfolds in such a way as to tempt and tantalize George to put the past to rest and to take on new love and life. The possibilities for reconnection and a future emerge primarily through the overt interest and encounters of two beautiful young men in scenes charged with attraction, tenderness, eroticism and the lingering, heart fluttering possibility of a passionate first kiss. We are held for the entire movie not knowing which way George will choose to go; hoping that somehow he will be saved; hoping somehow that we too will be saved from our own loss, our pain and fear and disillusionment in our own lives. Given the tantalizing nature and quality of the story and the stature of Isherwood as a prolific writer and personality of the 20th century, that this book has taken so long to come to the screen is surprising. Then again “gay” themed novels written by men known to be “light in their loafers” have not been so well regarded by movie studios nor become so bankable until recent times. Fashion designer, Tom Ford, in his directorial debut, brings a delicate, skillful and beautifully shot film to the screen with great confidence and intelligence. It ambles quietly through the dark realms of tragedy, grief, disconnection and existential dilemma, but with a light, poetic and even humorous touch at times. The 1960s never seemed so clearly defined nor so stylish as in this grainy, big-bouffant hair, wholesome vision of Los Angeles during the edgy, uncertain days of the Bay of Pigs crisis. It is touching to know that Don Bachardy, Christopher Isherwood’s younger lover until the end of his life, and himself now an elderly man, was a creative consultant on the movie Colin Firth brings his unfaltering charm and finely honed intelligence as an actor to the role of George. He moves us to love and care about him, to connect with his deep sense of loss and despair and his capacity as the older friend and lover. Charlotte (Charlie) George’s oldest friend and confidant is played so lusciously by Julianne Moore in that female camp way that only “independent” women of a certain age, privilege and deflected despair can manage successfully, adds a further layer of emotional grit and acting expertise to the movie. So is this a gay story or is it a just a story that happens to have prominent gay characters? There is little doubt that Isherwood has expressed his thoughts and ideas through the filter of what was his life-long fascination with the younger and older man relationship. Nevertheless, the characters could all as well have been heterosexual and the essential nature of the story would remain unchanged. A Single Man screens in cinemas around the country under general release over the next few weeks. It is another milestone in the maturing process of cinema with prominent gay content. It offers a painful and achingly beautiful insight into the state of fear and loneliness - and the great healing life force that can come with the meaning we make for one another through our attentions and connections. - Richard Howard Richard Howard - 6th May 2010    

Credit: Richard Howard

First published: Thursday, 6th May 2010 - 11:50pm

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