It wasn't just the house, this California house, dark wood and glass, glass everywhere; it was everything in the house, even the bed. It was Colin Firth, in a crisp white shirt, stretching himself out with a gun in his hand, stretching himself out on the white sheets, brown bedding, gray blanket pulled up and folded exactly halfway up the length of the bed, the same elegant, limited set of colors. As I watched all of this, I was fascinated by this perfect world and inextricably drawn to it. I want my apartment to look like this, I thought, imagining the next phase of renovations.
Well, this is what you should expect if Tom Ford makes a movie: an English professor at an undistinguished university in Southern California, dressed like a Manhattan advertising executive, living in a John Lautner house. But there is a spell cast by this film and I found it hard to resist. Living in the lush suburbs,among the well kept nuclear families on his street, Colin Firth is the single man--single, but with his friend, his roommate.
"We are invisible."
I think we hear these words twice in the film, set in 1962. We are invisible. Invisible, he lives in his house of glass, his office also entirely lined in glass. Everyone can see in, but there is nothing to see. He loses his lover of sixteen years and there is no one to share his grief with: it can't be discussed at work, it's off limits with his students, he seems to have no circle of closeted gay friends. He has only one longtime friend with whom he can share his deep loss, a woman. And even she, this longtime companion, she lets out one drunken evening: your lover, your lover of sixteen years, he was just a substitution, she says. A substitution.
Colin Firth, lying on his impeccable bed with a gun in his hand, his lover of sixteen years gone, is invisible in his pain to the world beyond his walls of glass. And then, in the gesture and presence of a handsome young man, he experiences a moment of clarity, of stunning clarity, ice clear . The frivolity of it, the lightness of it, the absurdity of it, that a sexy young man, a symbol of youth and virility and hope, can bring clarity to a middle aged man in deep pain simply by his being there. Christopher Isherwood was onto something.
But of course this was 1962, so many years past, and now everything has changed. Gay men are no longer invisible. Everyone knows them for what they are, recognizes their lovers as partners not as friends. Everything has changed. And yet I am reminded of a friend of mine returning to his family at the holidays, back to his large, extended, loving family. He goes alone, this middle aged man, without his genial, intelligent partner of some years. Alone, back to his family he goes, his partner an unmentioned secret. Though, of course, he is no secret at all. Everyone knows. Yet invisible.
No criticism from me on this point. None at all. I understand the arrangements we all make to live our lives the best we can, and I certainly have my own arrangements. I understand them and I don't criticize them. But I see the absurdity of this, and the injustice of it. Parts of our lives remain invisible, yet there for everyone to see.
I will go back now, plan my renovations, and look for that perfect palate of brown, and white, gray, tan, black, silver accents. The gray blanket pulled up and folded exactly halfway up the length of the bed. And this crisp, new white shirt I bought only yesterday.