Wealthy music producer Alan James lives with his beautiful Russian girlfriend Laura, thirty years younger than him, whom he met while he was in Russia on business. They have a three-year-old son. Alan is a music legend, having produced black music during the 60's and 70's, the golden era of Memphis Soul. They live an affluent life in a sprawling mansion on the banks of the Mississippi in Memphis, Tennessee. But, although she is comfortable, Laura feels lonely and isolated. Alan has an estranged adult son from a previous marriage, Michael, a literature professor, who is married and lives with his wife in Los Angeles. Michael and his father have a complicated relationship that is marred by disappointment, hampered by jealousy, and fueled by anger. When Michael returns home to Memphis for the first time in many years, although he had at first disapproved of his father's young girlfriend, a painful and dangerous love affair develops between him and Laura, his contemporary. As this ... Written by
Film-making with such an eye for detail and nuance is rarely to be seen in America and I'm overjoyed that the Sundance committee stepped forward to recognize it. Forty Shades of Blue is a fascinated witness to heartbreak and refuses all melodrama, all sentimentality in favor of fully lived characters that are shocking in their naturalism---the Russian actress in particular is astonishing but what is even more astonishing is the subtlety with which the director observes her. It is the most careful portrait of loneliness I have ever seen.
Unlike most directors who point us in every frame at their star or their theme, Sachs--like Robert Altman--often points out details and people of the setting (Memphis) so that we are quite sure we're not seeing actors at all, and the effect is not the closed-room feel you would expect of a love triangle, but a place and time fixed forever by the lens. Ira Sachs has coaxed great performances from his actors, his hometown and the musicians who perform like a Greek chorus throughout. It's quite a masterpiece.
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