Monday, 22 February 2010

Let us now praise famous men.

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Or rather, one famous man.

Colin Firth in A Single Man

I was going to do a meaty political post today, because I have been slight and domestic lately, but then the entirely enchanting Colin Firth went and won an award and gave the finest acceptance speech I have ever heard. It was polite and funny and graceful, which is a rare combination. So today must be salute to him.

I usually find myself bored to catatonia by awards ceremonies; where I used to love the glitz in my feckless youth, I now see dullness and self-congratulation. I can't bear the fact that all the women must do an obligatory beauty parade, because skin tone and fashion sense shall take precedence over any actual acting talent. I find the tears painful. This awards season, I have been even grumpier than usual, on account of someone deciding that a bloated epic about blue people must have prizes. (I never understood how anyone could take James Cameron seriously after the agonising boredom of Titanic. 'Just SINK already,' I furiously shouted at the screen.)

But last night there was nothing much on, and I ended up half watching the BAFTAS, whilst doing other things. I remained unmoved by the Twilight girl and the Inglourious Basterds fellow ( if there is one immutable rule in life, it is:- never, ever, refer to yourself in the third person). Then, suddenly, I found myself minding like hell that the best actor went to the best actor, and that best actor was clearly Colin Firth. They won't do it, I thought. They'll get all dazzled by the wagon of charm and twinkle that is George Clooney, or they'll get sentimental about Ian Dury and give it to Andy Serkis. They'll be horridly prejudiced against Tom Ford, because he criminally once designed a frock, and he's just too handsome and suave for his own good. They'll get distracted by the perfection of the suits. And do you know, they didn't. They didn't do any of those things, and the right man won, and I actually found myself shouting at the screen: GOOD DECISION, BAFTA. Good decision. And for a bonus, we got a lovely, ironic speech about fridges and fragrance, and not a theatrical tear in sight.

Colin Firth Bafta by Jon Furniss 

(Photograph by Jon Furniss).

I sometimes think that the reason Firth does not quite get the credit he deserves as an actor is that he is a fatal combination of good-looking and self-deprecating. People were so blinded by the sight of him in britches that they forgot to notice how damn good he was as Mr Darcy. He'll do a little light comedy on the side and happily send himself up. He does not ever speak of his craft, but makes jokes instead. If you want to see him at his most brilliant, hunt down a copy of A Month in the Country. This is possibly in my top ten films of all time, and he is so restrained and moving in it that he pulls your heart right out of your chest. It was very early in his career, but it and A Single Man form a pair of perfect bookends; in both, impossible grief is signalled by the flicker of an eyelid.

Kenneth Branagh and Colin Firth in A Month in the Country

As a bonus, you also get a very young Kenneth Branagh (left) and a lovely, delicate Natasha Richardson. There is ravishing countryside, a glorious score, and a few universal truths thrown in for good measure. Everything is in what is not said. It is one of those unusual films that treats its audience like grown ups.

So here is to Mr Colin Firth and all who sail in him, and the clever people at BAFTA, who chose correctly.


  1. I saw the title and thought ... James Agee - wonderful writer!
    But good stuff anyway!

  2. What a beautifully written piece! I'm just starting out on my blog journey and trying to find my feet. I hope my writing will one day be at a similar standard to yours! Please check out my blurb if you have the time :-)

  3. Yes Michaela - isn't the writing just a dream? Have you popped into the posts on writing that Tania has put up - they're very good, very encouraging.

  4. I could not agree with you more. I actually clapped when they announced Colin Firth had won (yes I know they can't hear me through the box), and loved his speech.

    I'll look up A Month in the Country.

    Helena xx

  5. it was wonderful to see the right decision made I agree- really heartening, good for Bafta. Colin Firth is a wonderful actor and I think I posted myself that because he is so subtle and because he is happy to work in various genres he gets overlooked. Well not anymore I hope.

    His speech was perfect too- and terribly British really. I just hope the oscars can find it in themselves to surprise us all like they did with Jim Broadbent a few years ago.

    I have a theory that many Brits are such good actors because we are all acting all the time- it's sort of in our DNA if you like- especially stiff upper lip types.

    I haven't seen what Mark Kermode rather wonderfully calls Smurfahontas so I probably shouldn't judge really- but whatever- technical awards fine and well deserved but if the oscars really want to award that film with the best overall picture they will be quite literally selling their souls.

    I like Titanic more now than I did then- it's sort of kitsch now I think. Kate Winslet does her best but I always felt and still do feel a bit that I don't want to watch such an awful thing unfolding just for kicks- there isn't enough gravity to that film.


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