Forty Shades of Blue

"Excellent"

Forty Shades of Blue Review


"I think you hate women," a trusted colleague recently told me. She went on to say something along the lines of, "OK, maybe you don't hate women, but you certainly don't trust them." Weeks later, still considering those heavy words so lightly thrown, I thought of Ira Sachs's remarkable and challenging new film Forty Shades of Blue. The central character is the woman hanging onto the arm of her rich, older boyfriend. It's a woman's role usually subordinated while the hell-raising man gets all the laughs, glory, and screen time.

As played by Dina Korzun, I didn't understand this woman character at all. She's closed off, remote, seems not to use the mind that is her own, and puts up with all sorts of horseshit from her boorish man, Memphis music producer Alan James (Rip Torn, who tears up the screen with his raging bull persona). She looks like a fashion model, a slender little slip of a thing dressed in wonderful clothes. We learn that she is originally from Russia, and has a three-year-old child. She appears somewhat bored with her wealthy lifestyle and mansion, and -- here's the thing... she's either completely inaccessible or she doesn't use the brains in her head.

The movie follows this woman, Laura, during a particularly intense introspective period. A universe of power, music, and the prevailing, loving, freewheeling spirit of Memphis bluegrass surround her. Ira Sachs, whose previous masterpiece The Delta showed lonely, isolated members of the lower class and the dispossessed reaching out to one another, now shows a more middle-to-upper class variation of the same thing: the loneliness of being inside one's own skin, the inability to communicate a depth of feeling you know but can't fully articulate. That the woman is beautiful and model-perfect doesn't take away from the fact that she's alone.

For my money, Sachs is one of the most promising and gifted filmmakers working today. His stories aren't depressing: The irony is they're filled with such a rich sense of joy, exuberance, and vitality even as the characters are stuck in their own prisons, as if life is full of bounty and living is full of fear. He allows his characters to exist in a fully believable "real world," where the camerawork isn't slick but rather vital. The camera follows the actors not as they're acting, but as they're living. The grainy pulse of the film stock takes on a beauty in its rawness. His movies feel close to home in a way that movies almost never do.

On my first viewing of Forty Shades, I complained that the film was not about Alan James, who I found far more complex and compelling than his remote girlfriend. Yet as the weeks drew on, I found myself thinking more of Laura -- and wondering if Alan was easier to pin down than she was. I thought the actress playing the role was a vacant model type from whom Sachs had drawn a performance through typecasting, only much later realizing how brilliantly thought through the performance by Dina Korzun was. (Regular art house moviegoers may remember from Last Resort.) She's a real actress who so fully embodies this type of character that the acting is completely invisible.

Of course, I felt a profound dislike of Laura. "Why can't you just get on with your life, for Christ's sake?" I thought, in a very Alan-like state of mind while sitting through Forty Shades. When Alan's son Michael (Darren E. Burrows), from a previous failed marriage, shows up and fails to connect on any meaningful level with his old man, he finds a strange and covert attraction for Laura. This closed-off woman finds an interesting foil in a preppy, passive-aggressive, clearly unhappy young man, and their affair doesn't play out as remotely poignant, but painful. They're both in search of something, and their passion seems to pass the time without leading anywhere.

The movie is Laura's. She goes through a small step of self-discovery, by virtue of a difficult time between herself, Alan, and Michael. The final scene where she's walking, pursued by the sound of a honking horn and a pair of car headlights, is Sachs at his most sublime, finding an image that suggests both freedom and stalking, an opportunity for escape and a slowly approaching cage. If one hates women, one would never know to empathize with this woman's situation -- no matter how distant she seems, no matter how closed off she appears, no matter how righteous one's own opinions are. On a first viewing, I was stunned by the power of the image; and weeks later it remains with me as a source of wonder. I'd like to believe Laura finds her way, and finds an avenue away from the men who hurt women and the woman who wants to be hurt. I never truly understood her in Forty Shades, but after a great deal of thought, I believe I'm trying to.

For some films, there's that delayed reaction. That's the strangeness of writing criticism: You write from your feelings in the given moment. Thank God you don't have to write about some things until weeks later. I was prepared to slag Forty Shades with a two-star review, citing it as a failed emotional test from one of our great new filmmakers. Now I wonder if my rating is too low, and whether there's more this film will have to offer when I rediscover it again. Some films deserve to be rekindled over time, so take my considerations with a grain of salt. If I hate movies about women I don't understand, it makes one wonder whether it's the film that's misguided, or if that reflects back on the critic. Screw whatever I say. Go support honest filmmaking and see Forty Shades of Blue.

Aka 40 Shades of Blue.

And one shade of pink.



Forty Shades of Blue

Facts and Figures

Run time: 108 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 7th December 2005

Budget: $1.5M

Distributed by: First Look Media

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 60%
Fresh: 31 Rotten: 21

IMDB: 6.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Laura, as Alan James, Darren E. Burrows as Michael James (as Darren Burrows), Andrew Henderson as Sam James, Elizabeth Morton as Cindy, Babysitter (as Liz Morton), Joanne Pankow as Aunt Betty

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Free State of Jones Movie Review

Free State of Jones Movie Review

Since its true story is still so timely after some 150 years, we can forgive...

Deepwater Horizon Movie Review

Deepwater Horizon Movie Review

This reunion of actor Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg feels like a natural successor...

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Movie Review

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Movie Review

Ransom Riggs' bestselling novel is appropriately adapted into a movie by Tim Burton, the gothic...

Get Back Movie Review

Get Back Movie Review

Roger Appleton's documentary 'Get Back' looks into the music scene that come out of Liverpool....

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Advertisement
Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.