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Forty Shades of Blue

  • Film

Time Out says

Ageing Memphis music producer Alan James (Rip Torn) is a planet around which his family – his grown-up academic son Michael (Darren E Burrows), his younger Russian girlfriend Laura (Dina Korzun) – have no choice but to orbit. They suffer the whims of his electrical storms and blend into the background whenever friends and fans buzz obsequiously around him like fawning satellites. So it’s hardly surprising that neither Michael nor Laura are happy; Michael passively accepts his father’s emotional steam-rolling and blunt put-downs (‘John Lennon was a good businessman, he never got paid by the word,’ counters his dad when someone suggests he resembles the Beatles singer), while Laura, a preened but sad presence, only really comes alive when she talks warmly in Russian to her young son Sam (Andrew Henderson).

Matters come to a head when Michael visits the family home after a long absence – and at a point when his own marriage is on the rocks. He and Laura take solace in each other, drawn together by what they have in common: Alan’s damaging influence over them. Initial tension turns into nervous, therapeutic passion, and all behind the back of Alan, of course, who’s too engrossed in his own greatness and self-pity to recognise anyone else’s misery.

Ira Sach’s second film – which won the prize for best drama at Sundance last year – is a sensitive and insightful study of the dark shadows cast by powerful men, and the gaping gulf between their public and private lives. Sachs is finely attuned to the emotional damage caused by unequal relationships, especially where money comes into play, whether between father and son or husband and wife. (Alan and Laura may not be married, but they share a home and a child, and their economic bond is far greater, or at least more complicated, than any piece of paper because of her Russian provenance.)

Torn does a great job with the character of Alan, never simply turning him into an ogre and always aware of how his own world has shaped him for the worse. It’s Laura, though, as played excellently by Korzun (a Russian actress best known here for her role in Pawel Pawlikowski’s ‘Last Resort’) who proves the most fascinating. Quiet and often silent, she’s a character forced into twin public and private roles, each as uncomfortable as the other. Sachs, meanwhile, pulls everything together with an auteur’s touch, moving between pleasing naturalism and more opaque, impressionistic moments. Most satisfyingly, his impressive portrait of a skewed relationship resists any easy resolution; for that alone, and for much more besides, this sits apart from most American indie film today.
Written by Dave Calhoun

Release Details

  • Rated:15
  • Release date:Friday 30 June 2006
  • Duration:107 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Ira Sachs
  • Screenwriter:Ira Sachs, Michael Rohatyn
  • Cast:
    • Darren Burrows
    • Red West
    • Rip Torn
    • Dina Korzun
    • Paprika Steen
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