Art is meant to explore all the unattractive inner realities as well as to recommend glittering ideals. It is not meant to provide uplift or confirm people’s prior ideological assumptions. Art says “Think,” not “You’re right.” — Maureen Dowd
A Single Man is a truly wonderful, heart-rending story and a beautifully constructed film. I had some questions about how this movie would work out, as it was directed and written for the screen by Tom Ford, who built a decade of fashion and design credibility at the house of Gucci. I have respect for what Ford has done in that field, but that was no guarantee of a cross over talent to writing and directing. Zippee. I was on board for Colin Firth (George).
This story portrays a deep and unyielding grief at the loss of a long-term partner and love. It also is incredibly stylish down to every detail, and one can really see the hand of haute couture creative direction in each element. Costumes, accessories, hair styles, make-up, decorated rooms, offices, drawers, cars, bars…….everything has a refined finish that speaks of a world that rests on a foundation of commitment to design and beauty.
What most impressed me about Ford’s directing and screenwriting was his ability to avoid letting the elements of style mask the agony of the characters’ struggles. In fact, he is masterful at using style as a vehicle for a theme of what happens when wholeness is severed. The pretty things remain, but they are shadows and copies of what was once a complete life.
Some characters cling desperately to the shadows, trying to leverage some kind of unity through lavender cigarettes and Tanqueray gin. There is only one character unaffected by a splintered life; not coincidentally, it is George’s lost love, Jim. Jim appears in flashback only, as when the story opens he is already dead. He appears only in George’s memory, a memory steeped in devotion as well as the happiness and fulfullment that Jim brought into his life.
Ford is excellent at showing George’s attention to details like a beautiful smile, well coiffed hair, or a Windsor knot as what they are — the last grasps at pieces of beauty in the face of having lost what was truly beautiful and irreplaceable. Never contemptuous but consistently honest, Ford manages to show even his own biographical engagement with style as walking a fine line between holding on to what is beautiful in appearance and being willing to embrace “the awful” — in this case the truth of homosexuality in the 1960s, grief, and growing old — as “having its own kind of beauty.”
I highly recommend watching this film with someone with whom you are completely, unrepentantly, and wholly in love.
That’s right, I am now the proud owner of the FestivALL 2010 “T” by Jim Probst! Last year I convinced Mark Wolfe to sell me his “T” and I like to think that initiative had a little something to do with this year’s E-bay auction to benefit all of the artists and FestivALL itself.
So that’s all good….but now I have 2 sequential years of “T”s in the house. What do they say, do it 3 times and it’s a habit?
I can just see it 50 years from now. My grandchildren come to help clean out the house after my death (for the record, I plan to be found with a smile on my face in bed with a one pound bag of peanut M & M’s, but that’s another story). They bring some friends from college with them because it’s a big job, and when they open the front door the kids just stand wide-eyed in amazement…….the house is full of almost nothing but sculptures of the letter T.
I will have had to move everything else out over the years. T’s will be on the walls, but also used as chairs, stools, and tables. Out back they will be stools around the firepit, stepping stones through the garden, and propped as ladders against trees. When they find me with my M & M’s my body will be resting on an extra-large T, commissioned one year in my honor of course, to serve as my bed. Many artists will have competed for this amazing honor, and eventually this particular piece will be donated to the Smithsonian.
Finally one of the kids will find his breath and ask my grandaughter, “What….what was up with your grandma?”
She will smile that little heart-shaped smile she inherited from my daughter and say something mysterious like, “It’s a family secret, but let’s just say when she liked something, she went all the way.”
I discovered Ryan Russell when my husband gave me the painting “Barn in Ground Fog” as an engagement present several years ago. (A similar painting is shown on the gallery link here.)
Our barn hangs in our living room, a reminder every day of the shelter and home that is our relationship. I plan to say a lot more about The Barn and what it means in my life, through my marriage but also my friendships.
For now, I just want to share the image and the idea. I’ve been up since 3:30 a.m., concerned about a lot of things that are not stable and secure in my world. But I’m here writing downstairs under the calming shadow of The Barn, both the painting and the love.
He’s resting peacefully upstairs.