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MEN’S STYLE FILM: A SINGLE MAN

Posted on November 7, 2011, by jack

Can a film be considered iconic just two years after its release? Perhaps not, but there is no doubting the impact of Tom Ford’s 2009 movie, A Single Man. It is a visual feast – 99 minutes of carefully crafted shots, impeccable acting, and of course, costume. The clothes, a collaboration between costume designer Arianne Phillips and Tom Ford himself, are a centre piece of the film, pulling the characters together into a cohesive 1960s world. Part fantasy, part reality, the costumes hover in Ford’s cinematic imagination, a misty world of cocktail hours and mid century design . For once, this is a film whereby men’s fashion is at the forefront of the production – from Colin Firth’s Tom Ford designed suits to Nicholas Hoult’s mohair jumper, this is menswear at its absolute best. The film, based on a novel of the same name by Christopher Isherwood, depicts one day in the life of George Falconer (Colin Firth) in 1960s Los Angeles. Struggling with the death of his partner, Jim (Matthew Goode), the film explores the complex emotions of grieving and George’s relationships with those still alive, namely his glamorous best friend Charley (Julianne Moore) and Kenny Potter (Nicholas Hoult) one of his students. By the end of the film, after a variety of mundane experiences, George seems to come to terms with his grief, able to ‘feel rather than think,’ appreciating the beauty of the world as Ford’s colours change from drab greys and browns to glorious technicolour. It is a film about 1960s anxiety, a world where cold war fears sit side by side with rampant materialism – in George’s beautiful modernist home there is unequivocal loneliness.To this end, clothes are crucial to the film. In George’s world visual appearances mask misery – he wears immaculately ironed shirts and perfectly polished shoes, yet his flashbacks of his lover’s death are crippling to him. Similarly, Charley, his beautiful best friend spends hours perfecting her eyeliner flicks, only to sit around all day drinking. It is a classic case of appearance versus reality – and the clothes reflect that. There is an unachievable perfection to Phillip’s costumes – we are transported to an alternate reality. In fact, it seems that the only real moment of release in the film comes when George sheds his clothes and goes skinny dipping with Kenny – a rejection of the stiff confines in which he has come to live.For the viewer, however, there is no need to shed the clothes showcased in A Single Man. Instead, they should serve as a mood board, a point of inspiration. This is exactly what Tom Ford intended. Asked to compare the process of creating a fashion line and creating a film he responded, ‘Well, the process as I explained is a little bit the same. You have to inspire people and get the best out of them.’ And there is plenty here to fit into an everyday wardrobe – George’s brogues, Kenny’s mohair jumpers, the tailoring, the haircuts – the clothes are as relevant now as they were 50 years ago. This is how menswear should be done – simple, classic pieces slotted together to make something amazing. This is a film that demands to be seen. Whether or not you watch it for the fashion, for the performances or the stars that are in it, this is a film that achieves moments of poignant beauty. Like its main character, George, it is by no means perfect, but Ford’s directorial debut hints that there must be more to come. And if it isn’t already, perhaps by then it will be an icon of modern cinema – the perfect fusion of literature, fashion and cinema.