July 24, 2010

One Short Day

I finally saw A Single Man on DVD. (Pinky saw it in the theater.) This is designer Tom Ford's directorial debut. Based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood, it stars two of my favorites, Colin Firth and Julianne Moore. Mr. Firth is George Falconer, a college professor grieving for his partner Jim (the handsome and charming Matthew Goode). It has been 8 months since the fatal accident, and George realizes he is unable to cope with his loss anymore. The movie follows him as he goes about his normal day, all the while planning that it will be his last. He is meticulous in his preparation for work, as well as for his demise.

Mr. Firth was rightfully nominated for his restrained and powerful performance. I sensed his anguish and despair when he said that looking back in the mirror staring back at him isn't so much a face as an expression of a predicament. The ever wonderful Julianne Moore is Charley, a fellow British expat with unrequited feelings for her friend. Christopher Hoult plays Kenny, a student who has an affinity for his English professor. George also meets a charismatic hustler named Carlos (Jon Kortajarena). Falconer's meaningful experiences with these people will define how his day will end.

The film is an artistic gem. The story is set in 1962; kudos to the brilliant costume, art, and set designers for their elegance and simplicity. The cinematography is beautiful, going from sepia and gray hues to warm pinks and oranges depending on our protagonist's encounters and sentiments. I found some of the shots too artsy---the slow motion views of eyes, lips, even cigarette smoke---although I did understand the purpose behind them: George taking in every detail, paying close attention to what's happening now, as if savoring it. He said earlier that everyday goes by in a haze, and decided that today will be different.

I have not read the book and don't know how it ends. I didn't like how the screenwriters decided to end the film, but it doesn't take away from the beauty of the film. The message I got is that what makes life extraordinary is the ordinary, the fleeting, the mundane. Don't they say that God is in the details? I love this voice-over: "A few times in my life I've had moments of absolute clarity, when for a few brief seconds the silence drowns out the noise and I can feel rather than think, and things seem so sharp and the world seems so fresh. I can never make these moments last. I cling to them, but like everything, they fade. I have lived my life on these moments. They pull me back to the present, and I realize that everything is exactly the way it was meant to be. "

(photo from Movie PosterDB)


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