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Forty Shades of Blue  [DVD]
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Ira Sachs directs this tense family drama. Legendary music producer Alan James (Rip Torn) made his fortune in the 1960s and 1970s and now lives comfortably in semi-retirement with his young Russian girlfriend Laura (Dina Korzun). Laura feels bored and lonely in Alan's Mississippi mansion, but when Alan's estranged son Michael (Darren E. Burrows) comes to visit, she finds herself embarking on a strange and dangerous love affair with him. While Alan and Michael try to sort out their own difficult relationship, Laura begins to confront her own choices and desires in a way that will change her life forever.
In Forty Shades of Blue, writer/director Ira Sachs takes three archetypes--temperamental artist, trophy wife, and brooding writer--and turns them into real people. Alan (Rip Torn, The Larry Sanders Show), producer of numerous R&B hits, is a Memphis legend in the Sam Phillips mold. On a trip to Russia a few years ago, he met the much younger Laura (Dina Korzun, Last Resort), who became his common-law wife. They had a child. It should be a good life, except fidelity is not part of Alan's vocabulary. Michael (Darren Burrows, Northern Exposure), adult son from one of his many previous marriages, is an English teacher and aspiring author. When Michael travels from LA for a rare visit, he quickly realizes it's easier to talk to Laura than to his own father--or even his own wife, who decides to join him later. The more Alan, who perceives himself as a man of action, ignores Laura and belittles the introspective Michael, however, the closer they become. But how much of their attraction is based on lust and how much is based on a mutual desire to get back at the larger-than-life hitmaker for his misdeeds? Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, Forty Shades of Blue may sound like soap opera, but in the patient, attentive hands of Sachs (The Delta), it never plays like it. Alan, Michael, and Laura are neither heroes nor villains; just three lonely people trapped in self-contained worlds of their own creation. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
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Top customer reviews
Rip Torn plays Alan, the larger than life, wealthy, philandering record producer, who lives with intelligent, beautiful young wife and their child. The arrival of his adult son, Michael, lays bare the faultlines in all their relationships.
Dina Korzun gives a brilliant performance, of both vulnerability and steel, as the lonely Russian trophy wife, looked on as mere decoration by all Alan's friends and associates.
Rip Torn is equally good, as the blustering, passionate, selfish middle aged man, too wrapped up in himself to see what is happening around him.
This is an honest film, with characters that make you feel uncomfortable about their choices, but it is all the more real for that.
Definitely worth a look.
Rip Torn stars - who last year probably should have received an Oscar nomination - stars as Alan James, a boozed out, aging Memphis writer/musician and record producer who is having a party in his honor. Alan is a bit of a philanderer and a bit of an egotist. We first meet him just as he is abandoning his gorgeous Russian trophy girlfriend, Laura (Dina Korzun) so he can fool around with another woman in a hotel room.
Laura is well aware of Alan's wayward ways and his penchant for adultery, but as a Russian bride, she's also cognizant of the fact that Alan can give her a life she could only have dreamed of back in Russia. She puts up with his raging, his infidelities, and his temper tantrums because she loves him - she's also full of gratitude - and also because they share a three year old son.
For his part, Alan deeply loves Laura, but his passion is tempered by deep-seated insecurities - he can give her the material, but perhaps not the sexual or spiritual. This is made even more palpable when Alan's handsome English teacher son, Michael (Darren E. Burrows) visits from California.
Michael has problems of his own. Stuck in an unhappy marriage with a newly pregnant wife, he is immediately attracted to Laura; part out of loneliness and probably because he sees in her a similar kind of vulnerability. Michael also freely admits that Alan has been a rotten father, although of late relations have been cordial enough, but it clearly can't have been easy for Michael to have grown up as Alan's son.
As Michael and Laura navigate the treacherous forty shades of blue, both are faced with difficult choices, especially Laura who feels so utterly alone and isolated in her chic life. The performances are astounding - Rip Torn is truly spectacular as the earthy, drunken Alan who lives for the past and yet can't quite quit being self-obsessed and ego-driven.
Director Ira Sachs moves to the rhythms of his native Memphis, teasing poignant significance out of the quiet domesticity of life and really capturing the city's gritty and coarse allure. The movie is full of meaning and muffled yet suggestive moments. You can really feel Laura and Michael being pulled together, they're both well aware of their commitments to their spouses, but just seem to be desperate for each other.
When choices are made and the characters eventually movie on, viewers will be truly left wondering and the impact of the final pivotal scene is absolutely devastating. Laura is so alienated she spends most of her days shopping in upscale malls and boutiques. Self-examination comes hard to her, but when it does the impact is all the more dramatic for it. This movie is absolutely haunting in its spare, stripped-down depiction of lost souls bound together; it is indeed a true masterpiece. Mike Leonard July 06.
The film is framed by three social gatherings that feature each of the three main characters in a drunken, unhappy state. It begins with Alan (Rip Torn), a famous musician, feted by his peers and with a much younger trophy Russian girlfriend, Laura (Dina Korzun). Into this mix, returns Michael (Darren Burrows), a son from Alan's previous marriage, an aspiring writer who has just split up from his girlfriend.
Laura is lonely (she gets drunk at the first gathering) whilst Alan is selfish & unfaithful. Gradually, Laura and Michael are inevitably drawn to each other after she reads some of Michael's work. Michael, in turn, wonders how Laura can tolerate life with his selfish father; Laura answers that `she just keeps going' and this line later reverberates (like a chord) at the end of the film.
A subtle, well-structured and moving film about relationships, it reminded me of classics like `Five Easy Pieces', mood pieces about family relationships and individuals; `Forty Shades' is a poignant film without being sentimental, more emotionally truthful about life than your average film by refusing to tie-up things into a neatly packaged resolution. Like a powerful short story, you know the lives of the characters and the relationships between them have changed irrevocably, and like a good story, you also wonder what will happen to these characters after the film has ended.
*The film is apparently based on Satyajit Ray's 'Charulata', itself inspired by a story by Tagore.
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A must see movie.
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