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|Index||27 reviews in total|
First, the plot summary is incorrect in a couple minor ways. Laura, the
Russian girlfriend of Alan James (Rip Torn) met him in Russia on a
business trip/ conference (according to a long conversation in the film
between Laura and Michael (Alan's son). Second they don't live in a
penthouse, but on the banks of the Mississippi, in a sprawling 70's era
house (NOT luxury but great set). Michael is not a freelance writer,
but a literature Professor (as he discusses in a couple instances in
the film - but would probably rather be a free-lance writer).
I saw this film at the Best of Fest (Sundance) Screening in Park City, UT, knowing that it was the juried Grand Prize Drama winner with high expectations. After having seen several other films, and having been attending the festival for 15 years, I was very disappointed and quite perplexed that it went away with this honor.
The film plods along revealing the characters as boring, sad, and shallow ghosts. The only exception is Alan (Torn) who does a wonderful job (but he always place this sort of role - a curmudgeonly, outwardly genial, jerk). The story is fairly simple, and verges on Oedipal themes, however, there is no real impact of the relationship that develops between Michael and Laura, as it takes place in a miasma of moral uncertainty. Alan and Laura are not married; Alan openly courts another girlfriend and has other transient relationships, Laura picks up men in bars and has a fling here and there, and Michael is ambivalent about most everything.
The story moves so slowly and the characters have such restrained reaction to what would seem as provocative situations, that the viewer comes away with a sort of numb bewilderment. The dialog is simply awful, and often distracting. Laura goes around saying things that you might expect a Russian Tour Guide to say (which she was year ago). It would be fine if she said and reacted in this way occasionally, from a realistically portrayed film such as this, I want more: more emotion, more anger, more. Laura is just sad - throughout the entire piece.
Michael's dialog is even worse. He's a Literature Professor, but seems illiterate. He says things that at times are harder to understand than Laura with her Russian accent. And the content of what he say's are often out-of-place and silly. His character is also the most shallowly portrayed in the film. He is simply blank. It is never believable that he would have a relationship with Laura.
Don't bother with this film. If you want to see something similar, but with considerable more depth, see The Ice Storm.
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.
This is a quietly brilliant film, a real gem, mostly because every
frame of Forty Shades of Blue reeks of cinema; it's a film lover's
film, and, maybe more importantly, a lovers' film, a romance/drama that
is human, complex and entertaining at the same time.
I was blown away by Sachs' attention to details and command of his actors. There's nothing flashy to his naturalistic approach, yet the three main actors/lovers shine, and the camera feels at ease even in the most intimate moments.
If this movie was in French, it would be up for an academy award as a foreign language film, in the U.S. they will treat it as a small, indie film. That's reality. But the reality this film captures, a triangle between a Russian woman, her much older, legendary music producer husband and his son, speaks to a greater truth - that people are fragile and wanting, that life in the West is so good, it makes us soft and even more fragile and wanting and selfish and human than we want to acknowledge. That at the end of the day we all want to love and be loved and be safe. When was the last time you saw a movie so simple and giving in its complexity?
It's set in Memphis, but it speaks an international language and I hope this film gets seen everywhere, not just festivals.
This is the first Ira Sachs film I've seen (his IMDb lists another feature, The Delta, and some shorts) but I'm certain there will be many more. Let's just hope Hollywood doesn't corrupt his unique talent and respect for movies and human beings.
Oh, and it's got some great music too.
Forty Shades of Blue is an extremely beautiful and moving picture, that slowly crawls under your skin, and stays with you for a long time. The character Laura becomes a nuanced and credible person, and her portrait is the main reason that the movie works, but the other main characters also show moving performances. All is weaved together in a very well-written screenplay, and complemented by beautiful cinematography and pace, that allows the story and the characters to develop. It is a movie that suggests, rather than exemplifies, not much is said, but much happens - I was deeply touched after seeing this movie, the Sundance award was so justified! You have to take your time, and let the movie SHOW you a story - this is not action, this is a drama - give it a shot, and you will be rewarded! 9 out of 10
this is an amazingly powerful movie...not a happy flick though. Dina
shows off her meticulous acting training in a superb performance. The
interaction between Dina and the other characters was simply superb. I
was completely blown away with the dynamics of this movie. Ira Sachs
did an amazing job capturing the hardships of each character and
blending them into one family.
I highly recommend this movie to the avid viewer. Don't expect this to be a simple happy flick. It is definitely for someone who is interested in good movies that require some though. This is a movie that you simply succumb to...It surrounds you with the movie...
Congrats on winning Sundance 2005!
I saw 40 Shades and think this film is incredible. Ira Sachs has made a
movie that is unlike the typical current American film but is all about
America. Every frame is filled with people and places that make you
feel like you are actually there, watching the lives of these people.
This film could not have been made in Toronto or Seattle or any other
place "standing in for" Memphis. All of this is important because the
main female character in this drama is Russian - an outsider in this
America - and we feel her estrangement in every scene. None of the film
is strange to us because we know these places and these people -
because we are American. It is this familiarity that allows us to feel
her outsider status all the more acutely.
Dina Korzun, who plays Laura is beautiful and remarkable. You sense her alienation at every moment and understand the difficulties of her situation without ever feeling that she is the helpless victim of circumstances. In one particularly amazing moment of the film, we see her face flicker with opposing emotions from second to second... Sachs allows the camera to linger, heightening our discomfort with the scene and emotions occurring.
Rip Torn is phenomenal. He knows this character and he knows this place. He is so authentic you absolutely believe every moment of his performance and as much as you hate him you feel for him too. An incredible performance.
Darren Burrows's character Michael is perhaps the hardest to find commonality with. It's not an easy job being the catalyst in a family drama and so at times we don't understand his actions but we do sense that they are coming from a man in limbo - pathetic flailings of a man sort of trying to do something, be something but also lacking the real conviction and drive. Of the three performances this one is the weakest but that is not to imply that it is not good. It's hard trying to match Rip Torn, most can't in any movie.
In Sumary, this movie is challenging -- through its structure and pacing and especially through its story but it is a challenge we should have more often in film not one to run away from. It is also beautiful and moving. It will definitely linger in your memory...often times coming back to you as if you are remembering a moment from your own life.
"Forty Shades of Blue" features Rip Torn as an acerbic, hard-drinking
music producer in Memphis who, though greatly beloved by his fans and
the people in the industry, is viewed somewhat differently by those who
know him best. Despite his advanced age, he has a gorgeous live-in
girlfriend, Laura (Dina Korzun), whom he met while on a business trip
to Russia and, even though they seem to be reasonably devoted to one
another and their relationship, Laura is becoming increasing morose as
a result of his constant philandering. When Alan's married son, Michael
(Darren E. Burrows) - who has reasons of his own for resenting the man
- comes from California for a visit, he and Laura enter into a secret
love affair that forces her to finally question her commitment to Alan
and to perhaps cut the chords - both obligatory and emotional - that
bind her to him.
Although the script does an effective job capturing the tensions simmering just beneath the surface of the story, the plot itself seems too conventional and too underdeveloped to engage the viewer completely. Still the characters are complex enough and the performances sufficiently layered to at least hold our interest throughout. Torn is particularly good at creating a character whose amiability and likability on the surface mask a callousness and mean-spiritedness below.
This is a subtle, if not exactly gripping, study of the compromises we make - and the choices we come to regret - in our effort to avoid loneliness and to find meaning and happiness in life.
"40 Shades of Blue" updates Tennessee Williams and puts his archetypal
characters into the Memphis music scene. Rip Torn is like Big Daddy,
here a legendary music producer (as bolstered by taking fictional
credit for the classic soul songs of Bert Berns with local color
provided by musical luminaries such as Jim Dickinson and Sid Selvidge)
and his mannerisms recall Sam Phillips. As his son, Darren Burrows, in
a hunky and magnetic return to public consciousness since TV's
"Northern Exposure," recalls Brick, though here his brooding is
Oedipal. Dina Korzun is a trophy girlfriend who depends on the kindness
In a mirror image of "Laurel Canyon," which also brought a prodigal son home to a legendary music producer parent with a younger lover, co-writer/director Ira Sachs well creates believable strained family interactions. All three interact so sweetly with the lovely toddler son that it becomes clear what warmth is missing among the adults.
The production design and use of Memphis locales reinforce an industry town where Torn's "Alan James" is well-known, and a lived-in house that includes photos and portraits on the living room wall. We also see that his cohort impresarios (whose music is actually passé these days in Memphis, as shown in "Hustle & Flow" and Torn refers to in a speech that nostalgically recalls how classic soul music was a partnership between black and whites) are mostly surrounded by much younger women.
Korzun's trophy girlfriend "Laura" is the most problematical, but it's not clear if it's the script or her acting. Sometimes she is clearly in "Lost in Translation" mode, as a Russian who has no connection to Memphis music and nothing to say to the people surrounding Torn and vice versa, and she wistfully notes that when she writes in English her handwriting looks like a child's.
Sometimes her teen age babysitter has more gumption and insight than she does. The other characters are constantly asking her how she's doing and she gives a different lie each time. Other times she can speak forthrightly and stand up for her opinions, as when she insists to a friend that the father and son do not share looks or characteristics, or acknowledging that she is living better than anyone from her home. From the opening scene of her shopping in the cosmetics section of a department store as symbols of her putting on her game face, her character seems to be Sphinx-like, but Korzun does create a sympathetic portrait of a confused, trapped bird and your heart does go out to her poignant efforts to be her own woman.
The film seems to build toward a confrontation that almost happens but doesn't quite, though that might mean that the characters have made a decision about their lives, as the son chooses not to be like his father, after several scenes where he did seem to be imitating his behavior.
The lack of a climax may be realistic, but it doesn't make for effective drama.
As several other reviewers pointed out, the principle theme of this film was boredom without redemption, and that's precisely what the viewer experiences. However it does succeed in what seems to be its intent: to show the unrelenting misery and suffocating dullness of its main character's life. . . a good dose of intravenously administered sodium pentathol would have helped the viewer survive this. However, without the aid of drugs, the effect is one of acute claustrophobia and overwhelming apathy as it pertains to the development of the characters. Add to this the endlessly dismal and muddy camera work, and you end up with 107 minutes of wasted film stock. I saw this at the Film Forum here in NYC, famous for the patience of its audience, and for the first time in my memory at this venue viewers were walking out before the end. In one of the few seminal lines of this bomb, the Russian character Laura remarks with exasperation that "Americans are so Spoiled!" Indeed they are. That Ira Sachs was somehow able to obtain the money to produce and distribute this dreary nonsense masquerading as emotional insight was an extreme and unforgivable indulgence on the part of some misguided benefactor.
This film touches the heart with both laughter and tears, and portrays humanity in a very realistic way, unlike many other films today. Rip Torn's performance of Allen James was absolutely superb (one of the best I've seen from him), and the performances of Dina Korzun and Darren Burrows, as Laura and Michael, were outstanding, as well. The story moves well all the way through and throws in some good humor and a few surprises along the way. I thought the ending was great. I'm not talking about how it ended story wise, but, the way the ending is artistically done. You'll know what I mean when you see the film, as I'm not going to spoil it here. Overall, this was one of the best dramas that I've seen in a long while.
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