The first real success I've seen, A Single Man is a sensual, poetic, and really quite ravishing drama from fashion designer Tom Ford. It's a beautifully designed, stylish, effortlessly attractive film, and Ford's cinema-adjusted eye has a particular knack for the bodily, as you might expect - but all the stylistic flourishes tie into his own adaptation of Christopher Isherwood's novel with bountiful meaning. Particularly notable is his use of colour - dull and grey reflection of George's (Colin Firth) grief and depression frequently blossoms into sumptuous saturated colour, spurred by lust, laughter, or sometimes just the infectious spirit of youth. Slow-motion sequences set to flourishing violins strongly recollect Wong Kar-Wai, and there are probably other reference points you could pick out, but it doesn't feel like any sort of pastiche. Despite the novelistic origins, it feels like an intensely personal piece of work. The sombre drama the tragic beginning promises doesn't proceed; instead, a delicate, gently amusing, introspective story develops, with Nicholas Hoult and Julianne Moore delivering intriguing slivers about their characters, but both are seemingly hooked, as we are, on George. And Firth, for the first time in my memory, delivers a stunning performance. I'm not sure if Oscar will bite, but I did, and it tasted slightly wonderful. B+
You might react differently to me on hearing that 44 Inch Chest is from the writers of Sexy Beast (personally the reaction was one of indifference), but you won't fail to spot the most obvious connection between them. Perhaps getting John Hurt to shoot his f***ing mouth off isn't as big a coup as getting Sir Ben Kingsley to do it, but there's still some perverse delight in hearing all variety of swear words in that inimitably sonorous, slightly gruff voice. Perhaps it's the same perverse delight that comes from seeing the frighteningly imposing Ian McShane play a tough, calm and calculating gangster-type who just happens to wear sharp suits and like having naked men lie on his sofas. It's certainly more interesting than the central dilemma of this stagey, surprisingly introspective drama, which would be more impressive if it had anything perceptive to inspect. I suppose you have to give Ray Winstone points for dedicating himself (and his tear ducts) so fully to his cuckholded character's crisis of masculinity, but despite having access to his mangled brain's hallucinations, there's nothing emotionally incisive or funny enough here to make this worthwhile. C
Finally, Bruno Dumont's Hadewijch, which can easily take the title of most interesting screening thus far, even if all that interest ends up feeling rather impotent. The story of Céline's (newcomer Julie Sokolowski) passionate dedication to her God occasionally provides an oddly bewitching moment, but for the most part, Dumont's detached style (emphasized by his strongly realistic manipulation of the sounscape) keeps us distant and mystified about her decisions and behaviour, and the flashback (one assumes) coda's attempt to explain the lead up to the tragic ending feel like a cheap and poorly constructed addition. D+
Feel free to ask any probing questions if you'd like me to elaborate in the comments. I'll be back tomorrow with news of Samson, Delilah, and Robert Mugabe.