Author Topic: "A Single Man" (beware spoilers)  (Read 72809 times)

Offline x-man

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Re: "A Single Man" Another Look
« Reply #190 on: September 06, 2013, 09:26:32 am »
If you are on this topic site you know the film.  It is very well-made, with good acting and high production values.  What's not to like?  A lot.  Sorry to rain on your parade, we should take another look.

This film is based on the Isherwood novel coming out of the gay literature school of the middle of the last century which presents gays as tortured victims living hopeless lives.  Such a thing was indeed more common then--I know, I was there--but times have moved on since then.  When I look back and am feeling grim and negative about it all, I have BetterMostians to remind me that it isn't like that now.  So why go back and wallow in it?

Gay people can and do live happy, loving lives filled with purpose and achievement.  Newer gay literature and films reflect this change in thinking.  Where it is NOT reflected is in in gay-theme movies made by the straight mainstream movie industry.  A Single Man is one such movie and there are many others.  I believe such films are by their nature homophobic, and have a built-in warning from the straight world that if you insist on being gay, be prepared to face suffering and misery all your life--so you'd better straighten up.

Back to the movie: Professor, your lover has been gone for a year.  Shouldn't the grieving process be coming to an end?  Must it lead inexorably to a gun in your mouth or a heart attack?  Most people who have lost lovers are able to keep on living, and go on to new relationships.  (Coming out of the AIDS crisis of the 80s and 90s has shown this.)  Get up off your knees, Professor.  Man-up, find a new lover, and keep going.  Three beautiful young men virtually threw themselves at you, but you turned away from all of them--nothing was going to keep you from your self-induced despair.  My sympathy for you is limited.

For all gay men, when watching movies like A Single Man, do not be fooled by by the straight movie industry's warnings about the perils of being gay.  Let those movies be a comfort only to right-wing religious crazies and "ex-gay" conversion groups that still lurk in the darkness.  Don't have any part of it.  We have plenty of new gay movies, not to speak of real life, to show us this.
Man is least himself when he talks in his own person.  Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth. ---- Oscar Wilde

Offline southendmd

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Re: "A Single Man" (beware spoilers)
« Reply #191 on: September 06, 2013, 12:58:35 pm »
You just rained on my parade!  I'll get over it.  ;)

I gotta disagree with you here, x-man.  If you want to blame someone here, it ain't the "straight mainstream movie industry"; it's Tom Ford, an out, gay filmmaker.  Ford directed, produced, and co-wrote the screenplay.

You can blame Ford for the film being too pretty, or too sentimental, or with too many lush strings.  

He has freely admitted that he added significant details that are not in the novel, especially the contemplation of suicide.  (He has said that had to do with his brother, I believe.)  It may be left ambiguously, but his connection with Kenny may well have changed George's mind, after all.    

George's grieving may be unmanly to you; however it is real.  What's wrong about a film that shows a gay man's grief?  That's what Isherwood was exploring when he wrote the novel:  it was during a separation from his partner Don Bachardy that he wrote this; he was imagining losing Don via the story of George and Jim.  (Hey, George and Jim were together for 16 years.  That wasn't common in that period, either.  Plus, Jim dies in an accident, not suicide, etc.  And, they are both pretty successful--hardly tortured, hopeless victims.  Outsiders, yes.

Please read the novel, if you haven't already.  It's a fascinating, direct, stream-of-consciousness, and completely unsentimental (and no suicide), day in the life of a man, very much a fish-out-of-water, who actually loves life.  

Offline milomorris

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Re: "A Single Man" (beware spoilers)
« Reply #192 on: September 06, 2013, 06:35:36 pm »
As I remember the movie, George did not kill himself, but rather died of a heart attack. He was thinking about it, but after watching the young student sleeping on the sofa, he put the gun away.

In any event, I don't think that grief is in itself unmanly. Of course there are more manly ways to grieve, and certainly less manly ways to grieve. I thought George's expressions of grief, and how he dealt with it, were on the more manly side. I don't know if this is how the character was originally written--since I have not read the book--or if it was a product of Colin Firth's performance.

As far as moving on goes, I don't think that it is at all unreasonable for someone to stay single for an extended period of time--if not forever--after losing a partner. I have known a few men and women, both hetero and homo, who never took on a new spouse/partner after losing the love of their lives. Its a very individual thing.

I think the fact that George grieves in this film and does not move on actually does a service to sexual minorities. It shows that two men can love very deeply and that our relationships are not predicated on sex. It also has a humanizing effect on the audience. They get to see that we can be just as multi-dimensional as heteros.
  The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Offline Jeff Wrangler

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Re: "A Single Man" (beware spoilers)
« Reply #193 on: September 06, 2013, 08:24:57 pm »
As far as moving on goes, I don't think that it is at all unreasonable for someone to stay single for an extended period of time--if not forever--after losing a partner. I have known a few men and women, both hetero and homo, who never took on a new spouse/partner after losing the love of their lives. Its a very individual thing.

I think the fact that George grieves in this film and does not move on actually does a service to sexual minorities. It shows that two men can love very deeply and that our relationships are not predicated on sex. It also has a humanizing effect on the audience. They get to see that we can be just as multi-dimensional as heteros.

I agree.
"It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide."--Charles Dickens.

Offline x-man

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Re: "A Single Man" (beware spoilers)
« Reply #194 on: September 08, 2013, 10:13:05 am »
Thanks, southerndmd, for the background info.  I am afraid you have not persuaded me.  Tom Ford may be gay and out, but he is not alone in getting this film to the world.  SM is there because the straight movie industry wanted it to be.  Nothing you say addresses my main concern that films like SM are meant to be warnings about the hazards of being gay, and it is better to "choose" to be straight.  I am disturbed that a gay man would direct, produce, co-write, and even add a more dire element like the suicide motif to the film.  Why would Ford cooperate with the straight movie establishment to do this?  From what you say, Ford is the one trapped in an outdated mindset which the straight movie industry is all too willing to go along with.  Whatever the merits of the original novel, it is not that I am criticizing:  It was written in 1964, another time, another space.  The film was 2009, a time when those connected to the film should have known better.

Contrast SM with the 1987 UK film Maurice.  Forster wrote and revised his novel from 1913 to 1960.  .We don't have the earlier drafts to look at, but I bet they were far grimmer than the final version.  The film Maurice predates Single Man by 22 years, and, wonderfully, rejects the gay-as-tortured-victim theme.  Against far more oppression than George faced, Maurice manages to struggle on and find Alec Scudder to settle down with.  (We would all kill for an Alec Scudder to wander in.)  Maurice should have marked a new beginning to gay-theme movies, not have been a unique surprise.

Ah, milomorris.  I have come to look forward to your cavalry charges against my postings, LOL.  Keep it up.  First, I know that George did not kill himself, but died of a heart attack.  But, either way the same anti-gay warning is there.  I accept your point that it is unfair of me to impose a limit on grief either for time or depth.  A year is not necessarily long enough, and the profundity of his sorrow is not mine to criticize.  God knows, I should know this.  I think I was speaking more to myself than to George when I said to man-up and move on.

I hope you will understand when I say that it is your last paragraph that really troubles me.  You come out of both racial and sexual minorities, so perhaps you are the best one to speak here.  Part of me agrees that whether Black and/or gay, we have to appeal to society at large for "humanization" and showing "that we can be just as multidimensional as heteros."   After all, straight white lawmakers pass Civil Rights Acts and same-sex marriage laws.  They have the power; we do not.  Crudely put, we have to know what to kiss and when.

But a deep part of me cries out that this is wrong.  We shouldn't have to grovel before them pleading for an end to bullying, bashing, imprisonment and death.  As I have gotten older I have come around to the Brian Kinney (QaF) school of attitudes toward the straight world: " Screw 'em all."  From your replies to my postings, I know you know this already.  Frankly, I cannot resolve the dissonance in my own mind between these two positions, and it bothers me.  I am reminded of the line in the Shawn Kirchner BBM song, "You'll never know in your shadows what I can see in the sun."  You are in the sun and I am in the shadows.  Sadly, films like Single Man just remind me how dark those shadows can be. 
Man is least himself when he talks in his own person.  Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth. ---- Oscar Wilde

Offline milomorris

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Re: "A Single Man" (beware spoilers)
« Reply #195 on: September 08, 2013, 02:49:15 pm »
X-man, obviously our points of view are quite different. I do not see the white/hetero world as being specifically adversarial--whether it be the film industry, or anywhere else. I have managed in my lifetime to make a comfortable space for myself where my race and my sexual orientation make no difference to the people around me.

When it comes to A Single Man, your assumptions about the film makers' motives are based on an adversarial perspective that I simply do not share.
  The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.