A SINGLE MAN ***1/2
Much has been made about Tom Ford’s sartorial brilliance (he’s the ex-head designer at Gucci) informing the aesthetics of his directorial debut, and indeed you can see the sure hand of a true aesthete in every frame. Ford uses every trick in the book – jump cuts, colour desaturation, flashbacks, flashforwards, voice-over, stylised sound design and grainy filmstock – to tell the story of George (Colin Firth, in a career-redefining performance), a proper (and very British) college professor, living in Los Angeles, who cannot get over the death of his lover. The stylised, and extremely stylish, treatment of the story is masterful and inspiring – but the story itself is singular and dull. Not much happens, and while we get an almost unbearably intimate portrayal of a man, we don’t get very much drama at all. Ultimately, the film feels way too long.
SHUTTER ISLAND ***
Martin Scorcese’s latest venture with Leonardo DiCaprio is a little odd. Neither a true horror story nor a proper film noir, this mix-up of genres was probably better as a book (novel originally by Dennis Lehane). DiCaprio plays a Federal Marshall in the early 1950s who goes to investigate a disappearance on Shutter Island, a dedicated hospital for the criminally insane located in Boston Harbour. The film relies on secrets and revelations so I won’t go into further plot detail – suffice to say that I found the whole thing quite satisfying in the end, but it was a bit of a slog, at times, getting there. This is a spooky film for those who can’t take spooky films – there is very little to really scare you, and there’s no graphic violence.