TOM FORD IS A FASHION ICON, A MASTER OF ELEGANCE AND STYLE. ALMOST FIFTY YEARS OLD, HE DECIDED TO BECOME A FILM DIRECTOR. HE WAS IMMEDIATELY SUCCESSFUL, AS HE ALREADY FREQUENTED AS A FASHION DESIGNER, HOLLYWOOD AND ITS GOLDEN WORLD, ALSO DESIGNING DANIEL CRAIG'S SUITS FOR THE LAST THREE 007 FILMS.
Ford directed two films: A Single Man, released in 2009, and Nocturnal Animals, still in theatres.
The first one was co-produced by the film company he created in 2005, Fade To Black. He was also credited as screenwriter together with David Scearce. In the second one, Tom Ford is credited as the only screenwriter, and Fade To Black as the only production company. His personal, although not too original filmmaking style, is revealed through complexity and control of every single scene, through his ability in managing various and different styles during the same film.
So, grace, beauty and style are the distinctive features of Tom Ford’s aesthetics, both in fashion and filmmaking.
Speaking about his cinema, in A Single Man, based on Christopher Isherwood’s novel, focuses on professor George Falconer and takes place in 1962. Ford lingers on exterior aspects and uses an affected style, recurring to slow motion, imaginary lights, black and white, often showing an iconography and a set design which appears closer to a Lancôme or a D&G commercial than to a movie. Statuesque bodies, suits, objects and things surrounding Falconer, who is played by Colin Forth, are gorgeous and luxurious but refined at the same time, representing the ideal transposition of Tom Ford’s aesthetics from fashion to filmmaking, without losing any percentage of intensity and strength. In the cinematographic context, those aspects get new meanings. They become exterior and superficial masks which are formally exemplary but at the same time they hide fragility, pain, they represent social conventions which repress and obstruct freedom and honesty in human relationships. Suits protect broken hearts, beautiful houses and beautiful cars are the places where unstable grounds are hidden and where impassive lives, which are roles to play, carry on waiting to crumble.
Those conflicts are even more clear in Nocturnal Animals (which is based by a novel as well, written by Austin Wright), where Ford is able to alternate the inner pain of a frustrated and bored rich art gallery owner, Susan (played by Amy Adams), and the thriller atmospheres of the book written by her ex-husband, who is played by Jake Gyllenhaal. Those atmospheres are really crude and intense and showed on the screen as the imagination of Susan creates them. So she represents the main character of the book as her ex-husband. The fictional and the real man are both portrayed as ‘weak’, which is still unacceptable for the American society.
Visually, Ford shows this consideration increasing the amount of flashbacks and stylish elegance. Again, death is represented as the highest moment of visual grace and perfection: in A Single Man this is clear in the first scene, where a mortal car accident is shown; in Nocturnal Animals the two fictional female characters are found dead as if they were portrayed by an artist or if they were ready for a sculpture. But this is all the product of Professor Falconer and Susan’s imagination. They are both far from reality of the outside world. Susan knows and acts the way she learned frequenting art galleries and the high society of Los Angeles. It is an algid and imperturbable world, which has internally freaked out. She is not really aware of what is happening outside. And contemporary art is not good at representing it, as we see in the first scene, where fat women dance naked in an obscene way. It seems then that ugliness cannot touch her world in other ways but silence and absence create actual upset.
Text by Alessandro Altobello