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Forty Shades of Blue   (released 12/14/2005)
By Ali Imran Zaidi

There are films that have purpose. Films that have a specific story or moral or lesson to portray, and they do so with a vengeance. Many times those kinds of films can be terrible; you learn their motive early, and the rest of your film-watching experience consists of simply waiting for the punch line. All of M. Night's movies after Sixth Sense come to mind. And then there are films that have no real purpose. They just sort of meander aimlessly through the sinewy minds of their characters, leaving you with more questions at the end than when you started. Forty Shades of Blue is one of these. And you know what? That's ok. That's what makes it a wonderful, quiet little film that is definitely worth watching.

The premise of this film has Alan James (Rip Torn - Wonder Boys, Men in Black) as an aging and legendary producer of rock and roll / Motown classics. Laura, his desperately forlorn girlfriend and mother to his child, is played by a desperately forlorn Russian actress, Dina Korzun. She is essentially the central character to the feelings of blue in Forty Shades of Blue. The visiting son, Michael, is played by Darren E. Burrows (Ed Chigliak of Northern Exposure fame). As the story goes, Michael comes to visit to partake in an event celebrating his father's lifetime achievements in music. But some familial troubles with his wife have him arriving late. He sticks around nonetheless, and gradually becomes rather taken by Laura, his father's girlfriend. I won't say any more beyond that – find out for yourself.

As a writer, I found myself almost in awe of the wonderfully subtle, organic ways in which the characters are developed, where they seem as though they're not doing a damn thing, but really are doing so much. Stick with it – it's a slow film, but literature is often slow. The quality of the film is entirely in the performances and direction, and all three lead actors do a superb job. The editing and direction is very reminiscent of Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation – complete with distant and haunting music and ambient sounds that complete the atmosphere. Throw in Korzun's own perfectly placed rendition of the title song, a cappella, and you've got a very Personal Velocity like experience. And this makes perfect sense – the film is co-written by writer/director Ira Sachs and Michael Rohatyn, the latter being the music composer for Personal Velocity and Ballad of Jack and Rose – both films by Rebecca Miller. For those who don't know, she is the daughter of Arthur Miller. The Arthur Miller, who wrote Death of a Salesman. And in the same way Arthur Miller masterfully told the story of the unsung male character, Rebecca Miller masterfully tells tales of her unsung female characters. And Michael Rohatyn, obviously influenced by this, definitely filled this film with the same approach – full of insightful, never-judging moments where his characters are free to just be themselves.

If you liked films like Next Stop Wonderland or Personal Velocity, or the more recent Lost in Translation or Broken Flowers, you will definitely enjoy Forty Shades of Blue. And it helps if you’re feeling a little blue yourself before you go see it – it’s just one of those films.

Ali Imran Zaidi is a filmmaker, writer and web developer - shooting, banging on keyboards, and making web sites in the Orlando area.

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