There are so many interesting aspects to A Single Man, which screens on Saturday, February 23 at 9.30pm on SBS ONE. Writer/director Tom Ford is a former creative director of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, and a designer might be most interested in the style and costumes, as well the depiction of 1960s Los Angeles. A fan of Julianne Moore might relish her scenes. (She's one of Ford's all-time favourite actresses and he wrote the role of Charley hoping she would take it.) While someone developing a feature film set over just one day, as this drama is, may be intent on looking at its use of flashbacks.
To me, though, one of the most interesting aspects of A Single Man is how much it veers away from the book on which it is based. I read Christopher Isherwood's 1964 novel a decade or so ago and was very pleased to came across a thoughtful and thorough article by Claude J. Summers, a US academic who has published a book on Christopher Isherwood (so knows his stuff). I'd recommend it to anyone interested in adapting books into films or learning more about A Single Man from a story point of view – but only after you've seen the film because the article is full of spoilers.
According to the film magazine Screen International, Ford had long been passionate about Isherwood's book and had bought the rights, and an existing screenplay by David Scearce, directly from Isherwood's real-life partner Don Bachardy.
“One night, I was having dinner with Don Bachardy and I told him I was struggling in my efforts to stay true to the book,” Ford told Screen about his own attempts to adapt the book. “Don told me to make it my own, and that gave me the licence to free my mind and explore the story more. A book is a book, but a film is a film.”
[ Watch: Tom Ford discuss A Single Man ]
(As an aside: When they met in 1953, Bachardy was 18 years of age and Isherwood 48, and their partnership lasted on-and-off until the author's death in 1986).
Having reported on the business of film for many years, another aspect of A Single Man that greatly interests me is that Ford financed the film himself. Filming took 21 days and estimates put the budget at $7 million. Ford had a couple of financiers lined up but they melted away with the 2008 collapse of one of the biggest investment banks in the US, Lehman Brothers Holdings. The Lehman fallout engulfed the world but Ford was able to dig into his own pocket.
A Single Man
Sunday 12 January, 9:40PM on SBS World Movies (now streaming at SBS On Demand)
Director: Tom Ford
Starring: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode, Ginnifer Goodwin, Nicholas Hoult
What's it about?
Torn apart by the shattering impact of the death of his long-time lover, college professor George Falconer (Firth) experiences the most transformative day of his life, blending past and present, desire and despair, and discovering that love persists even after the object of love is gone. Set in a sun-drenched 1960s California coastal A Single Man marks the directorial debut of American fashion icon Tom Ford, who went on to director 2016's Nocturnal Animals.