Friday, February 19, 2010

Quick Look: A Single Man (2009)

A Single Man, the directorial debut of fashion designer Tom Ford, is art directed and artfully edited to within an inch of its life. This is a suffocatingly persnickety film; Ford turns everything into a prop, lingering on the physicality of every performer and every object with the same intense gaze. He slows moments until they sizzle with a vibrancy and then past any such aesthetic pleasures until they are no longer indelible moments, but instead merely fussy ones. The only sense of urgency in the film is the heart-pounding sense of being fully immersed in the thoughts and feelings of the main character, a man planning to kill himself since he is distraught over the death of his lover. This man is played by Colin Firth, a fine actor who recently received an Oscar nomination for this very performance. The nomination makes a certain amount of sense to me, since Firth carries the film. His face and physicality show far more emotion than it first appears the filmmaking will allow. There’s genuine anguish and pain here, in the softly etched lines on Firth’s face, in the slow frowns and the slightly furrowed brow. Firth effortlessly made me care, bringing me in to the character’s plight in ways the overly designed film barely allows. Ultimately, the movie’s unsatisfying. It’s the kind of movie that’s so determined to leave an impact it leaves almost nothing at all. Potentially great supporting performances by the likes of Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode, and Nicholas Hoult are buried under the art design and the frustratingly oppressive score by Abel Korzeniowski. Tom Ford has a strong, confident directorial style, but I wish he could just get out of his own way a little bit. Too often I felt like I was watching a deadly serious perfume ad.

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