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Grateful to the father, but gaga over his son

Life is good for a beautiful young woman plucked out of Russia by an American music mogul in 'Forty Shades of Blue.' But then fate steps in.

October 07, 2005|Kevin Thomas | Times Staff Writer

With his deeply felt "Forty Shades of Blue," writer-director Ira Sachs again returns to his native Memphis, Tenn., the setting of his tender 1997 debut feature, "The Delta," a love story involving the son of a prosperous businessman and a poor Vietnamese immigrant born of an African American father, fitting in neither the city's Vietnamese nor black communities. This time the outsider is Laura (Dina Korzun), a stately and stunningly beautiful young Russian.

Years earlier, Rip Torn's Alan James, a legendary Memphis music producer, had met Laura in Moscow while on tour. Now she shares his sprawling, '70s-style home, and they have a 3-year-old son.

Alan is an earthy, larger-than-life presence whose love for Laura is palpable. Her love for him, a much-married man old enough to be her father, inevitably contains a substantial portion of gratitude. Life is so much easier in America that Laura tells herself that she has no reason to complain.

Yet when Alan is the center of attention, which is often the case, he tends to neglect her and is not above casual infidelity. Laura is often left on her own.

The presentation to Alan of a major music industry award triggers the return of his son Michael (Darren Burrows), a handsome English teacher, married and living in California. He stays on for a visit. Relations between father and son seem cordial enough, but it clearly can't have been easy for Michael to have grown up as Alan's son. In any event, Laura and Michael are deeply drawn to each other.

In its way, "Forty Shades of Blue" is a daring film, full of muffled yet suggestive moments, enriched by a soundtrack featuring the soul classics of music producer Bert Russell Berns. There's lots churning beneath the surface, but Sachs, who wrote his script with Michael Rohatyn, eschews conventional melodramatics.

Sachs has said that his intent was "to turn the camera toward a character that often gets overlooked: a woman on the arm of a powerful man." That's precisely what he does, for the trajectory of the film is Laura's process of painful self-discovery.

The director is not interested in telling a conventional love story but rather in bringing Laura to a degree of self-awareness that she must make a conscious decision about her life.

Sachs has pulled off a film of inferences and intimations, thanks largely to the casting of accomplished actors. Torn's Alan is easily the film's dominant presence. (Torn is scheduled to appear at the 7:15 and 9:45 p.m. shows Friday and Saturday at the Nuart)

As in "The Delta," what concerns Sachs is bringing people to a crossroads in their lives. What they do next is another movie.

*

'Forty Shades of Blue'

MPAA rating: Unrated

Times guidelines: Adult themes, situations

A Capital Entertainment release. Director Ira Sachs. Producers Margot Bridger, Ira Sachs, Mary Bing, Jawal Nga, Donald Rosenfeld. Screenplay Michael Rohatyn, Sachs. Cinematographer Julian Whatley. Editor Affonso Goncalves. Music Dickon Hinchliffe. Costumes Eric Daman. Production designer Teresa Mastropiero. Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes.

In selected theaters.

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