Director to Watch: Tom Ford

Helmer has a well-tailored vision for film

If Tom Ford had been making movies in the studio system’s heyday, he would, by his own admission, have had to be at MGM. As might be expected from the directing debut of a fashion icon, “A Single Man” is a work of lustrous surfaces and intoxicating color schemes — a monument to the pleasures of modernist architecture, magazine-ready interiors and the features of Colin Firth and Julianne Moore.

Enhanced reality, rather than gritty reality, is what comes to me naturally,” Ford says. But if Ford has a slightly overdeveloped sense of beauty, that beauty, he insists, is an essential component of the story he’s telling. Loosely adapted from Christopher Isherwood’s novel about a gay professor in 1960s L.A., “A Single Man” conveys the intensity of one man’s last day on Earth through a series of boldly impressionistic brushstrokes.

The style is really there to help us understand the character,” he says. “When he’s depressed, everything is very desaturated and flat, and when he moves through the day, his senses become heightened and things become overly lush. You really are appreciating beauty if you imagine you’re looking at everything for the last time.”

Ford felt better equipped to tackle his first film in his late 40s than if he’d been in the twentysomething age range of many tyro directors. Having led Gucci back from the dead in the 1990s certainly didn’t damage his confidence; aside from the benefits of a compositional eye and a fluency in the visual language of glamour, Ford says fashion is “much more collaborative,” and much closer to filmmaking, than most people assume.

The process is not that dissimilar. I’m used to making decisions very quickly. I’m very pragmatic. I’m used to working with a budget and a timeframe,” he says. “If someone throws a tantrum, I know how to handle it.”



50/50 Los Angeles and London, “but it’s literally constant movement.”

INSPIRED BY: “Contemporary filmmakers, Wong Kar Wai and Julian Schnabel. Historically, the usual suspects: Antonioni, Kubrick and Hitchcock. Everything in Hitchcock is artificial, and everyone is beautiful and every suit is well tailored. It’s enhanced reality.”

Bryan Lourd and Craig Gering (CAA), Skip Brittenham (Ziffren, Brittenham, Branca, Fischer, Gilbert-Lurie, Stiffelman, Cook, Johnson, Lande & Wolf)

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