I wrote this and then re-read it and I realize it’s somewhat disjointed. I blame that on the fact this movie completely scrambled my brain apart.
I went to see A Single Man on Friday night at our local indie theater, the only place it’s playing in the city. This movie really wasn’t on my radar at all. I didn’t know what it was about and didn’t even hear of it until awards season started up. In the last week or so, I took note and watched the trailer and was convinced this was a movie I had to see on the big screen for some reason. I’m so glad I did.
This is without a doubt my favorite movie of 2009.
It’s 100% the kind of movie I really enjoy deeply. I am a huge fan of stylized editing and storytelling – not stylized as a gimmick, but just as an artistic choice. Something like that walks a fine line between gimmick and art, and I felt this movie hit it perfectly. It accentuated the story rather than distracting.
I’m not a film scholar by any means. I only had one film class in college, I don’t know the appropriate way to review a film, and a lot of what I say could “technically” be wrong. All I know is how a movie makes me feel when I’m walking away from it. And this movie had me in tiny little pieces.
I watch a lot of movies. Ever since I started making my own little movies, I’ve begun watching films with a different eye, constantly thinking about how scenes were assembled, why the editor made the choices they did at each cut, or the process involved in a sequence. Because of this, I always end up watching a movie a little more consciously. I feel like it can be hard for me to judge editing in a way sometimes because I’m always very aware of a cut, and the audience shouldn’t be aware of the cut. That being said, with this film, I felt like the rhythm the editor built took a very abrasive way of editing (jump cuts) and made it almost invisible in a way.
As I said, I love films that are assembled like this. This film could have been constructed in a straightforward, more mainstream way. The director could have not taken any risks, the cinematographer could have done every shot straight on and without movement, the editor could have just slammed together a series of sequences. It would have told the story and ended and then it would have sucked. The story and the way it was presented went so hand-in-hand, it was beyond stunning. The way it was cut gave me a feeling of hopelessness when it needed to be felt, like being in a daze, or being in a very intense moment. It’s really rare anymore for me to feel so emotionally connected to a movie through the cuts since as I said, I’m much more aware of them than I should be.
The film is about one day in a man’s life several months after the death of his long-time partner. Oh, and he decides that this is the day he commits suicide, and spends his day contemplating and preparing for it. Colin Firth is outstanding and I think he really does deserve the Oscar for his performance. I didn’t see him in this role at all. The other supporting actors in the film are also great. I love the 60s era, and the production design was awesomely vintage.
The color work that went into this movie was AWESOME. Sucking the life out of it during most of it, and infusing saturation back in when Firth’s character finds some little intimate moment to appreciate about life was an amazing choice and really sold the film visually. My favorite movie is Amelie, for much of the same reason. I love the story and the style choices, but I really love how the filmmakers were able to tear out this tiny little intimate detail in the world and make you feel exactly how they want you to feel about it. The same occurs in A Single Man.
I also loved the musical choices in the movie, and more importantly, the moments when there was no music. Choosing to not have music in an intense emotional moment is risky and it worked great.
Basically, this is one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen, both in terms of storytelling and visually. I could be completely wrong, but I felt like it echoed the era of French New Wave in many ways. Tom Ford’s background as a fashion designer has given him a unique perspective on film, and I look forward to what he has to offer in the future.
I really don’t feel completely emotionally taken over by movies all that often. I love a lot of movies, and they often inspire me, but not many of them really hit my editor-soul hard. This one really truly hit it hard.