Fri 25 Dec 2009
Colin, you’ve got a little something on your lip … no, no, other side.
Cinematography (Eduard Grau)
Adapted Screenplay (Tom Ford & David Scearce (screenplay), Christopher Isherwood (novel) – (A Single Man))
Tom Ford is a celebrated fashion designer, credited with the resurgence of Gucci and recognized for his talents in the industry and eye for beauty. Why then is he adapting Christopher Isherwood’s “A Single Man” into a film? And more importantly, how is it that he’s crafted what I’m saying is the best film of the year?
Well, first you start with 2009′s best performance of the year. Colin Firth plays a professor in the 1960s, lamenting the loss of his partner (Matthew Goode). The thought of going on alone has tormented him to the point that Firth has decided that this day will be his last. (Yeah, what a shock I’d gravitate to a film with a setup like this.) Portraying a person on the precipice of such a weighty decision isn’t easy.
Despair is an emotion carried through non-verbal cues and Firth navigates himself through them deftly. Like most audience members, I’m used to seeing Firth play the kind hearted yet bumbling do-gooder. There’s a lightness and convivial quality to him that comes through in all of his usual roles. Here, Firth has stepped outside of his general typecasting and landed himself in decidedly dramatic territory.
Helping him along is a capable supporting cast, led by Julianne Moore, Nicholas Hoult and Matthew Goode. Moore plays a fellow British ex-patriot, drinking her way through each day and being to Firth the kind of emotional entanglement that while it requires a bit of care taking, also provides a secure sense of loyalty and comfort. Hoult is a student of Firth’s, who sees what a painful day he’s having and (although their are ulterior motives) decides to step in and try to make it a little bit better. The catalyst of that painful day is Goode and in the flashbacks of their life together, we see the life and sense of purpose in Firth that is lacking now that his love has passed away.
Aside from the acting performances, two other elements of the film really stood out – Ford’s shot selection coupled with Eduard Grau’s cinematography and a beautiful score composed by Abel Korzeniowski. I’ve heard it said that one of the faults to the production is Ford’s obsession with making everything beautiful, that it slowed things down and possibly created a disconnect between Firth’s portrayal and the rest of the story. However, Ford simply finds the beauty that exists not only in sadness but also in Firth’s examination of life on what could be his last day of it.
What’s so remarkable about the film is that while Firth is counting down the day, he’s also taking stock of all that’s around him. While it may be his last time to see a rose bloom, having that sense of finality also makes that same act feel like the first time. Everyday, mundane acts take on a greater sense of importance and relationships long taken for granted can become something akin to sacred. Ford shoots all of this with a keen sense of style and frames everything in a way that gives us both the expected omniscient view audiences expect but also Firth’s viewpoint as well.
I usually qualify if a film has succeeded on a personal level if I’m left a bit stunned when the credits begin to roll and use that time to collect myself. “A Single Man” did just that, utilizing Firth’s amazing performance and Ford’s excellent use of tone and mood in combination with Korzeniowski’s score to craft a incredibly intimate portrait that shouldn’t be missed by fans of more serious fare. A 5 out of 5, this helped to ease my lament over a seeming lack of truly memorable films in 2009 and I hope everyone involved gets their share of accolades over the next few months, though I’m sure many voting bodies will just go with their usual picks because it’s safe and I’ll be one of the few trying to keep this on the public radar.