Sunday, February 7, 2010

Isherwood/Firth and Don't Ask, Don't Tell

 Admiral Mullen's speech this week before Congress in which he expressed some obviously deeply considered and heartfelt thoughts regarding the hypocritical and wrong-headed thinking behind the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Law, was simply amazing. I was blown away by the sincerity and eloquence of the Admiral's speech and the basic simplicity of the admonition to just do the right thing and repeal this law. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue but a human rights one and it cries out for a resolution.

How can one be true to his country and to his fellow men if he or she can't even be true to himself? How can a gay or lesbian person fully concentrate on their military duties if they have to be concerned about being outed and court martialed? It's a travesty that so many willing young people, often with enviable language skills that could be utilized heavily in the bid to win over hearts and minds in the Middle East, should be barred from or kicked out of service because of their sexual preference. In the United States of America in 2010? It boggles the mind.

Which brings me to A Single Man, the film adaptation of a Christopher Isherwood short story, that I saw this past week. I've been a film buff for as long as I can remember, well probably since my mother took me to see The King and I, or was it when dad took me to Bridge on the River Kwai? There are performances that are hilarious and others that make you cry and there are movies that are mind blowing with their special effects or political statement, but Colin Firth's depiction of the barely closeted professor George, mourning the accidental death of his lover and best friend of 16 years, is simply on another level entirely. The concept of not being able to acknowledge who you are comes home quickly in the scene where George is advised of his lover's death by a phone call from a well-meaning relative who tells him that he would not be welcome at the funeral which is only for "family."

I tried to imagine how difficult this role would be. The camera work is relentlessly close, every pore and hair follicle, every twitch of the eye, every movement of the mouth is so close, so personal and yet, we don't for some reason feel that we're invading George's space but rather sharing his grief with him. Colin Firth is a love and always does a perfectly fine job in whatever role he's given which is maybe why this outstandingly nuanced and sensitive  portrayal seems all the more admirable for the gamble and the stretch.

I can't imagine that any other Oscar nominated performance could hold a candle to Mr. Firth's George Falconer but I've seen how these judges think. It might not be politic to give a Best Actor award to a Brit over an American and then they may not want to put the spotlight on a gay character two years in a row. Still, what a fitting preamble to the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, if the Oscar could go to a single man whose anguish and grief had to go unacknowledged in order to keep other people comfortable.

1 comment:

Andrea said...

Couldn't agree more, having just seen "A Single Man." I keep wondering how he did it, it was all so subtle and yet triggered every emotion in me.