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Ira Sachs’ Forty Shades of Blue

Sometimes we think that running away is a good idea even if it means to be far from our own culture, far from our upbringing, or far from own beliefs. We want to let go and have life tells us where to go. We want to believe in ourselves and trust the decisions we are making are the right ones. This “good” idea can easily turn on us if we let the thoughts that might linger in our heads come to the surface. What if we wake up and find ourselves in a place far from home and far from understanding the reality we are living in? Films can make us feel that way too – well the good ones do. They immediately put us into a world that is foreign and we have to land on our feet if we are going to make it through. They bring us on a journey of emotions and we go willingly, even though we know soon we will leave that theatre and enter back into our own reality having gone through so much. This is the best way to describe the internal feelings of the three main characters in Forty Shades of Blue and this is the lingering feeling the audience will have after watching it.

A Russian woman, Laura, is far from home, living in Memphis claiming to be better off than anyone else she used to know. She boasts that Russians just go on without complaining, where as American are spoiled. Every man in the film seems to be drawn to her. They have their own lives and their own goals and achievements but they all come back to her. She’s not a seductress, nor a whore, she’s just there much like a home is always there and the men seem to appreciate that. The man she lives with, an aging Memphis music producer, Alan James, is never mad at her for he believes he is the evil one. The music producer’s son, Michael, is just like his promiscuous father even if he thinks he is better than him. Michael finds himself sleeping with the Russian woman ignoring his pregnant wife at home. This love triangle creates a web of emotional confusion that tangles and untangles throughout the movie.

These are not characters who pretend to be someone they are not, nor do they wish they were someone else. These are characters who are “doers”, they are achievers, they are “somebody” and they are proud of that. Inside though is this idea of feeling spoiled, of not wanting to complain, of wanting to appreciate everything life gave them even if they know they can’t help but feel miserable inside. It is that feeling that they wash down and swallow with alcohol. It is that feeling that they use the pleasure of sex to help them forget momentarily. These are people walking around in the worlds they created or let happen with one questions buried beneath their uncomfortable skins: “What have I become?” and it is the estranged, foreign Laura who is the voice of all the characters as her slow realization of who she has become leads them all to look into their own mirror of denial.

Writer/Director Ira Sachs is a filmmaker who draws from his own internal feelings and his own experiences with the various characters and situations that surrounded his life and he is impressively able to weave together a thematically focused story. His first film The Delta is an underrated, ambitious, tangible piece of American Cinema that does exactly that as he tells the story of his youth mixed with the stories of people he heard about or knew. With his Sundance Grand Jury winning piece, Sachs draws from his own experiences with his father in Memphis. He previous made a short documentary portraiture of his father titled Get It While You Can: My Father in Moscow which undoubtedly was an influence for numerous characters in Forty Shades.

The subtle yet calculated performances in Forty Shades of Blue (as well as in The Delta) are what really make it a believable film. The actors seem to feel at home on set; they seem to have lived this experience themselves. Rip Torn plays the misogynic but tortured music producer who feels as though he has conquered the world. Darren Burrows plays the quiet son who lives in his father’s dark shadow, unable to not look up at him in admiration even if he wanted to. Dina Korzun plays the Russian woman who stumbled into an unwanted life and is trying to be happy about it.

Forty Shades of Blue opens (tomorrow!) in New York on September 28th and will open in more theatres in the coming weeks.

Tomorrow we feature Justin Ambrosino’s interview with writer/director Ira Sachs.

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Justin Ambrosino received his MFA from the American Film Institute where he was awarded the prestigious Patricia Hitchcock O'Connell Scholarship. His short, ‘The 8th Samurai', a re-imagining of the making of Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, won more than 20 jury awards worldwide and qualified for the Academy Awards Short Film category in 2010. Ambrosino began as an assistant on major feature films including 'The Departed', 'Lord of War' and 'The Producers'. He also staged a series of one-act plays throughout New York. He has been a Sapporo Artist-in-Residence, a Kyoto Filmmaker Lab Fellow as well as a shadow director on 'Law & Order: SVU'. Ambrosino is working on his feature film debut "Hungry for Love". Top Films From Contemporary Film Auteurs: Bong-Joon Ho (Memories of Murder), Lina Wertmuller (All Screwed Up), Ryan Coggler (Black Panther), Yoji Yamada (Kabei) and Antonio Capuano (Pianese Nunzio...)

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