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A Single Man

It’s always a pleasure seeing a Colin Firth movie as you never know what he’ll do next.  A Single Man finds him giving a wonderful performance as George, a gay college professor living in 1962 L.A.  Still mourning the loss of his partner Jim (Matthew Goode) in a car crash, he decides to end his life.  Going through his last day as he tidies his affairs, his interaction with student Kenny (Nicholas Hoult) and close friend Charley (Julianne Moore) prove pivotal in deciding his ultimate fate.
A Single Man is a film demanding constant attention.  As directed by first timer Tom Ford, his fashion design background makes each scene come alive with remarkable clarity.  His use of colour is crucial in depicting George’s mood as the grey cloud enveloping him gradually allows some brightness to emerge.  As we follow George on his final day on earth, we’re asked to savour each moment along with him.  Despite the crushing pain of his partner’s death, there is always some hope that he can find someway to move forward.
At its core the story is about loneliness. George, as he deals with his situation, no longer has the support base of a loving partner.  Although Charley provides some vague emotional support, she too has issues of need as she deals with a crippling divorce.  In Kenny is someone looking for guidance as he deals with his sexuality.  All three seem to fulfil some need in the other, although their fragile states prevent them from fully finding the answers they desire.  Christopher Isherwood’s novel is given new life with the excellent performances of Firth, Hoult and Moore who make you genuinely feel for their characters.
It’s this eye for quality which elevates proceedings.  The 60’s set design looks very lush although it never overwhelms the central theme.  This helps the ‘living for the moment’ motif running throughout as George is forced to participate in the normal functions of life.  It’s interesting how Ford attempts to visually express how concrete decisions can be muddied by life’s randomness, with pictures and sound almost more important than what is said.  At one time or another we all suffer loss and some feelings can never be expressed by mere words as A Single Man expertly shows.
Using a small cast and simple narrative, Tom Ford’s debut feature is an accomplished piece.  Its subtle structure makes for more insightful viewing in its essay on re-connecting with life.
Rating out of 10:  8

From Paris With Love

You have to admire a film’s tenacity in borrowing its title from a James Bond novel.  Whilst the elegant capers of From Russia With Love are light years away from the urban scrapes of this action spectacle, their European settings and fast paced exploits bind them. There the similarities end as it’s difficult to imagine this film’s gung-ho protagonists looking comfortable in a Savile Row tux.
Working as an ambassadorial aide in France, James Reece (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) wishes for a more exciting life as a CIA agent.  Ignoring the phrase ‘be careful what you wish for’, he is offered his first high level assignment.  Tasked with preventing a terrorist attack, his dream turns into a nightmare when he meets his new partner Charlie Wax (John Travolta).  Always shooting first before asking questions, Charlie’s loopy ways give James a taste of danger he may not have wanted.
From Paris With Love is very much an American action movie done from a French perspective.  It’s style is as big and brassy as any U.S. bullet-fest, but under the surface there seems an undercurrent of mischief as the mostly French crew send up an American movie staple.  Utilising the ‘cop-buddy’ riff, the production team ensure their hometown is beautifully photographed amidst the outlandish carnage.  From that angle it works, as the Parisian locales deflect from a familiar plot filled with one dimensional characters.
Although you can hardly call this hokum subtle, it benefits from a great performance from John Travolta.  His ability to completely immerse himself into different personas works here, as his near lunatic role has an ongoing sense of unpredictability.  Coupled with top notch action sequences, there’s always enough to maintain enthusiasm until the fairly predictable finale.  You really can’t take anything seriously as each scene morphs into the next in a haze of fiery gunsmoke.  If you like these sort of films it’s best to go along for the ride as the journey is at least entertaining.
Produced by famed French director Luc Besson, From Paris With Love is a Euro-trash action spectacle.  It does the job in providing diverting amusement for awhile which, in the business of enticing fans of the genre, it does so with tongue firmly in cheek.
Rating out of 10:  6