Posted by Lois Eliason on August 09, 2011 0 Comments
Not knowing a thing about Christopher Isherwood’s 1964 novel A Single Man or Tom Ford’s adaption of it, I expected only to be possibly bowled over by the unveiling of possible unknown and phenomenal haute couture from the 1960s. As it turns out, the movie was incredibly subtle and paced slowly—resembling stop-action photography, so we viewers could appreciate each moment of George Falconer’s day as it is unveiled to us.
What did bowl me over, however, was Julianne Moore’s character, Charlotte (Charley), who is the characteristically Baroque, glamorous, nearly gaudy element that I expected from Tom Ford. Of course, I absolutely loved it.
Charley’s home was remarkable. I loved that upon entering it, you necessarily walk through a small foyer lined with lush, gorgeous citrus trees—-a demand to spend time in an idyllic Garden of Eden before you enter her den of iniquities. This is not to say that I didn’t love the aesthetic of Charley’s den: minimal and chic, but comfortable, too. I loved the giant twin leaded-glass mirrors against the walls; one which was visibly so old, that it did not reflect properly. I loved Charley’s pink pillows that matched her pink cigarettes…every detail about her lifestyle was so outrageously beautiful. It was not perfect, but it was beautiful.
And, like her home, Charley is not perfect, but she is outrageously beautiful and seductive. Her lush and unbalanced character plays a nice contrast to George’s restraint and repression. She dines with George wearing a simple and columnar dress offset by gold baubles: dramatic earrings, a cocktail ring, and a thick cuff bracelet. Her hair is teased into a casual up do. Her dark-lined eyes don’t appear overdone. However, we know (as the movie tells us), that her appearance is the result of a good amount of time spent at her boudoir earlier that evening.
The entire movie, both in its elements of restraint and unrestraint, brilliantly embodies the Italian term “sprezzatura”, which according to Baldassare Castiglione (who coined the term in The Book of the Courtier, c. 1528), is a way of projecting oneself and his/her qualities in a manner that seems effortless and without premeditation.
Though Ford does give us a glimpse through Charley’s character, of how tedious of a device sprezzatura is, the movie itself has so fully embraced the essence of the term, that we are unaware, as we should be, of how elegantly every detail, every mundane moment, is crafted.
Some years back, a fresh-faced friend of mine needed to pick up some cosmetic essentials while shopping around with her fiancé. She reported his alarm at the $300.00 or so bill she rung up rather quickly at the Chanel counter. She turned to him and said “Look at my face. Do you like my face? This is what it takes to make me look this way.” And, she did look fantastic—all the time. Art, Fashion, Life…it all takes some effort to be so effortlessly beautiful.