Observations of the suicidally cool: Tom Ford's A Single Man
". . . after all, a man who has resolved to kill himself is a god." ---Vladimir Nabokov
At first, I found A Single Man turgid, pretentious, bombastic, its story line given to glib wish-fulfillment, and its final twist too egregiously ironic. I also appreciated Colin Firth's (as always) impressive acting skills. And yet, A Single Man, the first film directed by major fashion designer Tom Ford, intrigued me enough so that I watched it twice. In addition to the story which concerns an English professor contemplating suicide in the course of one day in 1962, I found the film's clutter-free art direction compelling. As an academic, I have never seen anyone dress even remotely as well as professor George does, or live in such GQ fashionable interiors, or drive just the right 220S coupe Mercedes, or go to work without grading a single student essay. On one level, George (Firth) inhabits a stylized world that logically extends from a fashion designer's vision. Everything about Ford's world, from the Psycho-enhanced parking lot, to George's 1949 John Lautner-designed house, to his perfectly symmetrical classroom (nothing written on the chalkboard) is just on this side of the laughably perfect. George can't walk past some college student guys playing tennis without Ford including some swooning slow motion close-ups of their chests glistening with perspiration (a scene almost worthy of the Twilight series). Is this a movie or a Calvin Klein ad? George can't even get his clothes from his bureau without stunning the viewer with the exact organization of his socks. So even if some of my initial reactions have some validity (especially concerning the ending), A Single Man increasingly impressed me with its technique.
At other times, as George and Charley (Julianne Moore) fall back on the shag carpeting and share a cigarette together as the camera gazes down on them from above, A Single Man views like a compendium of flirtatious cinematic gestures--lots of smoking, drinking, George reading Kafka's Metamorphosis to convey his alienation as the more carefree Jim reads Breakfast at Tiffany's, and so on. These gestures reminded me of Godard's cinematic allusive methods in Breathless.