Volume 18 • Issue 20 | October 07 - 13, 2005


Photo courtesy of First Look Pictures

Laura (Dina Korzun) paints a pretty face in “40 Shades of Blue,” now playing at Film Forum (filmforum.org).

Fall films focus on relationships gone south

Sounding love’s blue note
By Noah Fowle
Already making noise on the festival circuit, “Forty Shades of Blue” is a remarkable and harmonious combination of sounds and images that lay at the heart of great filmmaking.  Set in the music mecca of Memphis, Tennessee, the movie, which won the Sundance Grand Jury prize, follows the relationship of an aging blues producer, Alan (Rip Torn), his young girlfriend, Laura (Dina Korzun) and his estranged son, Michael (Darren Burrows). Director Ira Sachs, who co-wrote the script with Michael Rohatyn, crafts a film that offers no easy answers, nor innocent characters, and the accompanying music, by turns lively and gloomy, buoys his sparsely written screenplay. Sachs, who is no stranger to his southern setting, made a stunning debut in 1997 with Delta.
At the film’s onset, Alan seems to be enjoying his waning years as a musical impresario.  He has the respect of his peers, a beautiful woman by his side, and the clout to act as brash and unruly as he always has.  Whether he is throwing a temper tantrum in the studio or consoling the nagging conscience of Laura, Torn deftly captures the sweet and curmudgeonly side of Alan’s character.
Laura, a soft spoken Russian beauty, seems to have relinquished herself to her role as Alan’s part time lover and mother to his younger son, until his eldest son Michael arrives at their home on the heels of his own marital problems.   The two quickly find solace in their discomfort with Alan, and they soon cement the last cog in this bizarre, but accurately portrayed love triangle.  They make attempts to keep their indiscretions hidden, but of course, it’s only fitting that these dysfunctional characters ultimately air out their grievances publicly.    
“40 Shades of Blue” dodges the bland sentimentality of a father-son drama with its intense focus on Laura.  While Michael gets to return and fix his failing marriage, and Alan finds comfort in his throngs of admirers, it is Laura who is cast out with little else than her young son to keep her grounded.  Her silent tears and lost words provide the perfect illustration to the films’ haunting requiem, which threatens to overshadow the real performances of noted musicians Jim Dickinson, Sid Selvidge and J. Blackfoot. 
Without leaving the audience disappointed, the film drifts into the credits with its characters feeling lonelier than when we first met them.  Unflinching as the blues music it draws its influence from, the film takes an honest look at how relationships disintegrate and how hapless people are in the face of repairing them.


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