At one point during a single November day in 1962, George Falconer pulls up into a Los Angeles parking lot. In front of his car, a billboard advertising Psycho fills the entire screen with wide eyes. Throughout much of Tom Ford’s movie A Single Man, I sat wide-eyed myself, taking in the work of visual poetry.
The fashion designer and former head of Gucci brought his vision to the silver screen along with his instincts for sensuality and aesthetics. Adapting Christopher Isherwood’s eponymous novel, Ford has woven an extremely trim, almost seamless character sketch of George Falconer, sensitively and masterfully portrayed by Colin Firth. After eight months struggling with the loss of his love, Jim, George has decided that this day would be different: it will be his last. Unlike the despondency with which George has lived life in grief, the world begins to open up and reveal moments of beauty.
In those moments of beauty, of connection, the colours of the screen flared subtly, brightening a lipsticked smile, warming up a buxom rose. The film has been carefully written, sequenced and crafted – no line, no shot feels without value. I wanted to absorb every moment of the meticulously crafted and stylized day in 1962. The deliberate pacing, sometimes slow and dreamlike, played out like poetry and had me wrapped up in George’s world, his past, his present and his impending future. Ultimately, the film’s message is about our humanity, our engagement with sentiment, the fleeting nature of true connection.
While the message of the movie has universal appeal, Tom Ford has created a sensitive and subtle portrayal of the life of a gay man in the 1960s. Ford has quite loyally adapted Isherwood’s novel and extrapolated to create poignant personal moments between lovers, between old friends, between a professor and his student. Through excellent acting and rich, considered and poetic visuals, A Single Man transported me into sentiment and visual stimulation. It is a poignantly told story that captivates, intrigues and inspires.