DVD Rewind: A Single Man (2009)

September 6, 2011


After a summer of movies in theaters, I’d like to try something a little different (and more economical for most). With “DVD Rewind”, I’ll introduce you to films that I have found worth thinking about, talking about, and sharing. Hopefully we can discover something new (that’s old) together!

This past weekend I cozied up with A Single Man (2009), a movie that I knew of but hadn’t gotten around to screening. The first-time director, Tom Ford, is one of my favorite clothing designers, so naturally I was curious about his foray into film. At the very least I hoped the cast would be well dressed. They are, but more than that, A Single Man surprises with how poignant and visually captivating it is.

Based on a 1964 novel by Christopher Isherwood, the story is set in 1962 Los Angeles and follows the life of university professor George Falconer for one day. This is an important day for George (who is gay, by the way) because he has decided it will be the last of his life. Woven into the plot are George’s past lovers, current neighbors, and the people he encounters this day, each impacting his initial decision to bring an end to what may be a life worth having. The presentation of his experience in this one day is breathtaking.

With his directorial debut, Ford does quite a few things right, not the least of which are his casting choices. As George Falconer, Colin Firth pulls off sad unlike any other actor in employ today. His voice and face wear depression so well. His embodiment of a homosexual man in an oppressed time soars above expectations. Firth carries George Falconer somewhere in his soul it seems.

Julianne Moore, as you may remember, can do no wrong in my book. She continues that reputation here, as the English personal friend and long-ago lover of George. Moore is gorgeous both in her character’s desperation and her joy. My only qualm is her accent—she is not believable as a Brit. She is, nonetheless, stunning.

Also stunning is how Ford uses varying color intensity to show George’s emotions—for instance, when George sees an engaging spark in a woman’s eye while they speak, her face becomes vibrant and more saturated with color. Alternatively, when George is looking at a loaf of bread, his world appears slightly gray and dull. This technique paired with tight shots of people’s faces makes A Single Man feel very personal and beautiful.

The era represented by A Single Man is captured well, with on-point costuming and décor. As a clothing designer, one expects Ford to have an eye for style, and he does not disappoint. I look forward to watching this movie again and again, if only for the glamour and mod-ness of it.

Beyond the gorgeous details and faces, A Single Man offers an engaging view of one man in a tough time and his response to it. George Falconer’s speech to his class about what it is to be a minority resonates loudly, even today. The fear of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the paranoia of the ongoing Cold War rattle some of the characters, just as fear machines in the current media work against the American psyche today.

The details tucked into this creation make it special. For a first-time effort, A Single Man is a remarkably well put together film, one I am happy to add to the collection.

Miranda Foresman writes about film (new and old) from her home in Arroyo Grande.