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Monday, August 22, 2011

A Single Man

One of the things we OFWs love to do when we had the time, which we do actually, is to watch movies. Back home, I seldom go to the movies, I only go when the movie is really worth watching or my favorite actor is playing. But here in the Saudi, when you cannot go out or doesn't want to, your room is your movie house, the internet is your bestfriend, torrents your buddies and TV is your brother. I recently watched again, which a habit of mine (watching a movie more than once, since the first time you only get to appreciate the cinematography and the next time the acting and the lines, the third time the soundtrack and story), the movie A SINGLE MAN, headed by a great actor and a favorite, COLIN FIRTH.

The story begins in an underwater dream sequence showing a naked body, drifting and floating underwater which is apt for a movie about love and loss which all but drowns in its own beauty. At its heart, is an elegant, and sophisticated acting from Colin Firth, for whose English which the role is convincingly suited. Directed by Tom Ford who is also a fashion and visual designer, provived a vivid and ­indulgent work in 1960s period style, with a hint of modernity, like a "100-minute commercial for men's ­cologne: Bereavement by Dior." - Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian.Uk
Based on the 1964 novel by ­Christopher Isherwood, the film ­follows an unhappy single day in the life of an unhappy single man. George Falconer, played by Firth, is an ­expatriate ­Englishman in Los Angeles, a ­college professor teaching English literature. It is 1962, and there is this hype for change in the air: the recently passed Cuban missile ­crisis has left America in a careful mood, relieved but still profoundly nervous. The ­students increasingly affect the style of beatniks, bikers and bohemians, and youth ­culture is breaking through the ­normal conformity. None of this means much to Falconer, a discreet gay man whose partner, Jim, has just died in a car accident.
Shock and bereavement have accentuated George's repressed English habits. He now wears well-pressed suits,shirts, and buff-shined shoes. George goes out everyday from a modernist house whose glass walls promise an openness that George cannot personally show – and is silentl, heart-breakingly nice to ­everyone on campus where he is ­respected and admired, but has formed no close friendships. Colin Firth's George is radiant, almost shining with loneliness, which he may not s show publicly, havubg been rejected from Jim's funeral by the family. His despair has resulted in a painful heart condition, which George has endured as everything else. But he appears to have made a decision – that his loneliness is too much to bear. George will have this one final day at work, bid a kind of ­farewell to everything in his ­life, and then take his own life.

It is slendid performance in my opinion from Colin Firth, because the part is such a perfect match for Firth's great acting ability to be withdrawn, pained, yet sensual, with a dash of wit and fun. Matthew Goode plays Jim, his partner, mostly seen in flashback sequences.
Julianne Moore plays the best friend and confidante Charley, a ­fellow English expat and semi-alcoholic ­divorcee. Their friendship is touching and warm, even when George is furious to realise that Charley, in spite of everything, believes in her heart that heterosexual ­marriage is more real than gay partnership. ­Nicholas Hoult plays Kenny, a student fascinated by his enigmatic professor.
Tom Ford' film always looks cinematographically enticing: especially the scene in which George shares a cigarette with a beautiful Spanish boy, surrounded by an eerie reddish glow of LA dusk. But that black-and-white flashback showing George and Jim sunbathing nude on some rocks – that is mostly ad-like.
This movie which is so visually perfect, is still a good frame for Firth's performance: a man who has had to become his character to carry the weight of loss, and whom ­society will not permit to grieve. Kind of like most of what my "kind" does, we are much like actors playing roles, what people wants to see and accept againts who we really are. Sometimes our sadness is just something we can come home to in order to realize that we are still who we really are. Life in the 1960's where the story happens probably started the revolution about the freedom to express how sexually ambivalent men should be, and until now, we're fighting for that same right.
The story is poignant, deep and powerful, I can only sigh at the end that after all the sadness and pain, there is that moment when everything will be alright.

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