Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and James Cameron have been put on this earth to make outstanding films. Others, like Karl Lagerfeld, Carolina Herrera and Vera Wang, have found their calling in designing classic couture.
And then, there are those who are destined to do both. Tom Ford, legendary fashion designer for Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and, currently, his self-titled fashion line, has added “director” to his lengthy résumé. Yes, the man responsible for Hollywood’s most dapper suits has delved into a much different creative project, but one that still depicts Ford’s artistic expression of classic beauty and emotion.
Ford has taken on the adaptation of the Christopher Isherwood novel, “A Single Man,” first published in 1964. The controversial novel revolves around a homosexual English professor at a California university who has spent the past months grieving over the death of his lover. George Falconer has decided to commit suicide, and the film’s plot begins and ends in the course of one day as he decides whether or not to carry through with his planned fate.
The novel itself produced shock when it was first published, as homosexuality was not accepted fully or tolerated in the open in the 1960s. For George Falconer, the pain inflicted by his partner’s death is unbearable, but also secretive. Ford, who took the project into his own hands, cast established British actor Colin Firth as George Falconer, Julianne Moore as his close friend Charley and dreamy-eyed newcomer Nicholas Hoult as an influential English student.
Ford takes a deep pride in this film, as it is based on a novel that is close to his heart. In the February 2010 issue of Vogue, Ford recounts his struggles after leaving Gucci and losing his place in the current fashion society. His own personal mid-life crisis was reflected in this novel, and he finally saw “its spirituality” and “the understanding of the mid-life crisis” after not having read the book since he was 20 years old.
Ford seems to have been as dedicated to this film as he is to his fashion creations—he was meticulous, devoted and interested in the perfection of the film ‘s final outcome. Equally, his desire to convey Falconer’s heartbreak and the intensity of the day he chooses to carry out his suicide, Nov. 30, 1964, is constituted in the film itself. Having not had the chance to see the film, I viewed the trailer for a glimpse into the cinematography. It was clear that the movie is a result of Ford’s vision, as the trailer was an expression of art in itself. The trailer is silent and runs through numerous clips, montages and short scenes to leave the viewer emotionally struck but also searching for more answers.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Ford designed almost everything within the film: the set, the makeup and hair and naturally, the clothes. Ford got specific, noted detail and paid careful attention to every movement, color, placement of detail and facial expression of the actors and actresses he so carefully cast in his debut film. Many may think Ford’s transition from fashion mogul to independent film director is cheap, or even sleazy, like adolescent television starts trying to make a platinum pop record in the early stages of their career. However, Ford’s situation is quite different. “A Single Man” is the product of years and years of artistry at work, blossoming creativity and the laborious effort to construct fashion that was new, inspiring and unique in the fast-paced lane of fashion.
Ford was the director of his own runway shows, tailoring the outfits, the staging and the routine of his countless models, and his ability to tailor a film has been just as promising. There is something to be said of Ford only straying away from the comfort of a business he has helped to shape. His bold decision to venture off into a completely new realm of creativity deserves applause, as well his decision to not only direct the film, but also co-write it. In the same “Vogue” article, Ford said: “This was the first purely artistic, expressionistic thing I have ever done.”
The hard work has paid off for Ford, as his film debut has earned him a number of impressive accomplishments. Colin Firth has been nominated for an Oscar in the “Performance by an Actor in a Leading Performance” category and Ford was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for “Best First Feature.” Ford has clearly prove himself as a force to be reckoned with when it comes to couture, and with his first feature film, his talent in the movie business may not be sweeping so far behind.