A commentary and resource on Law and Sexuality by Professor Chris Ashford and guests
It’s rare I go to the cinema. Don’t get me wrong, the sound, the big screen, love it. On the other hand, the head in front of me, the rustling in sweet packets, the sipping of drinks, the chatter between folks all really really annoys me. Yes, I am boring like that. Anyway, following the BAFTA success of A Single Man I felt the need to take myself off to see it. Only trouble seems to be that the wonderful cinemas of the North East seem reluctant to show it. I know for those journalists and commentators largely based in a London metropolitan bubble this will seem odd, but here’s the thing – worthy films about homos aren’t everywhere. A Single Man is a worthy film (an Isherwood book) about homos. It’s also brilliantly written, brilliantly cast and filmed/directed. But apparently North East cinemas don’t get past the first bit. Then again, that’s probably based on what they expect to be an audience reaction/demand and so it’s all the more revealing that few are showing it. In the Tyne and Wear region, just one cinema, the small art house Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle is showing it. So off I trotted.
Well what a stonker of a film. First off this is a ‘here and queer’ film. The opening scene invovles a touching guy on guy kiss – and there are quite a few after, along with the sight of Nicholas Hoult’s bum. For me, as a non-film expert, I was struck by two things – the use of colour throughout – lightening and darkening or becoming bland to convey emotions and secondly, the use of eyes throughout the film. Colin Firth is perfectly cast as the central character. Nicholas Hoult is similarly brilliantly cast as the tempting student. You have to believe in the attraction and you do with Hoult. They light him – especially his eyes – to reveal the most wonderfully blue eyes (see screen shot on the right). As I sat watching, I thought you could almost dive into them – a feeling that Firth’s character was almost certainly having. As I sat watching, I was reminded of one of my favourite songs – ‘Sometimes’ by James which has the wonderful line: ‘Sometimes, when I look deep in your eyes, I swear I can see your soul’. Many of us can think of those intimate moments with a lover and that irresistible gateway to the soul.
Hoult also possesses the most amazing lips. Go on, watch it and look at them. They beckon, they tempt. It’s quite wonderful.
Similarly, Jon Kortajarena as the rent boy Carlos is just amazingly beautiful but also able to convey a smouldering sense of desire. On a basic level, these portrayals make Firth’s performance all the more believable.
The most striking feature of this film is it’s a powerful gay love story. When we see George (Firth) find out about the death of Jim, his lover, we are reminded about the denial and tension around sexuality that still exists today. It reminds us about the importance of partnership and marriage rights for those who want them. When we hear from a neighbours kid, that their father thinks George is gay and ought to be killed, we are again reminded of small town homophobia – not helped by small towns not even showing films such as this.
Love story it certainly is. Unashamedly gay love story it is also. Yet, the media coverage has not been to focus on the sexuality aspect. I can’t yet decide whether that is a good thing or not. All I did know as I exited the building and into the cold air of Newcastle was that I didn’t half fancy a drink and a packet of Lucky Strike cigarettes – subliminal advertising seemed bizarrely to have worked.
Check out the James song below.