Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 6 March 2010


Tom Ford's A SINGLE MAN finally makes it to my local art-house, and turns out to less than a faithful vision of Isherwood's gay classic novel. A fascinating example of a film of a book one likes and which I had recently re-read. [I never wanted to see the film of CAPTAIN CORELLI'S MANDOLIN once I had read it was a filleted, travelogue version of the story...].
Here though the changes are quite startling as fashion designer Tom Ford creates Isherwood's story in his vision. In the 1964 novel George the university lecturer is a crumpled 58 year old with no interest in fashion and lives in a boxy apartment which was too small for him and his lover/partner Jim (who was killed in an accident). It is now 8 months later and George struggles through the day, keeping his feelings in check as he copes with the University, the students, and his best friend Charley - who is, in the novel, a lumpy middle aged woman who dresses in ethnic peasant attire and lives in a dilapidated bungalow. In the movie George lives in an impossibly glamorous glass and wood house - one laughs out loud at seeing it - with perfect modern style furnishings, which hardly seems possible on his university salary (and it just does not look 1962 style). Charley is now a very glamorous divorcee who drinks a lot and lives in what is like a hollywood mansion.

Colin Firth is totally engrossing as George and Julianne Moore certainly ramps up the glamour as Charlie. Matthew Goode is seen as the deceased partner, and Nicholas Hoult scores as the young attractive student who seems to be stalking George. There is also that attractive hustler who tries to pick him up, in that wonderfully lit scene like a studio set as they are bathed in a golden light against that giant PSYCHO poster. Details like these are fascinating and and its all brilliantly conveyed, Tom Ford has indeed brought his vision to it, as anyone who saw his "Vanity Fair" Hollywood issue will see. I particularly like his brilliantly styled flashback to the '40s when George and Jim first meet at that seaside bar.

I was very pleased Colin Firth in a career best performance - he is no longer a lightweight actor - got the BAFTA award, we will have to see how the Oscars go, though it would seem to be Jeff Bridges' year, which I am happy about too.

Fascinating movie, fascinating music too - I had to wait to the very end credits to see who sang that version of "Stormy Weather", its Etta James! Its a movie I like the look of, its quite an achievement to (mainly) get the early 60s look right - all the rage now with MAD MEN. Ford also partly produced and co-wrote the screenplay. Its certainly intentionally very homoerotic too with the camera lingering on those male bodies and in the presentation of Kenny, the student, with the tighty whiteies and that nude swim (in the book Kenny just wants a place where he can screw (as they said back then) his Japanese girlfriend - he is not actually coming on to George. Niggles remain though about making it all more glamorous - those perfect white shirts! - and the ending is perplexing as there are slight changes. There is no gun or suicide intent in Isherwood's story, Kenny the student sees the photo of the nude late partner, and remains in the house on the sofa, whereas in the book George wakes up to find him gone and a note left, and then ..... Isherwood takes a detatched tone regarding George and his ageing body in the book, imaginging the time when George's body gives out - not it happening there and then with the student in the house, plus Colin Firth in the film looks fit in his late 40s and not likely to topple over any time soon... It looks great of course, as styled by Ford - that stunning scene with the hustler bathed in that orange glow, and the flashback to the 40s ....
Looking forward to the dvd and any special features! So, another BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN ?

Things were obviously very different back in the early '60s but surely there would have been more interaction with Jim's family - who must have been aware of George's existance if they were together 16 years? [In my own case in 1996 when my then partner died suddenly his family, whom I thought I had got on well with and had met several times a year for 10 years, were on the doorstep the next day to claim his possessions (which they were entitled to) and also tried to claim the house (which they were not) and this was a wealthy middle-class family!]. Another comment on that impossibly perfect house - back in '62 Marilyn Monroe for instance was living in a Spanish-style bungalow, quite the style in California, with a very ordinary divan bed; there may well have been stunningly modern houses but I wouldn't imagine university lecturers were in that league!

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