(25/10/06) – Some films feel more like a real life experience than an imitation of it. This is the case with Ira Sachs’s 40 Shades of Blue, his follow-up to The Delta (1996). The film won last year’s Sundance Grand Jury Prize and atttracted very good reviews in America, although reception in the UK was less enthusiastic. Set in Sachs’s native Memphis, the film is redolent of vintage European arthouse cinema (Rainer Wainer Fassbinder, early Ken Loach) and John Cassavetes in America. A slow-burning, character-driven film of the kind that Hollywood unfortunately stopped making in the 1970s.

40 Shades of Blue focuses on the moment when sad-eyed Michael (Darren E. Burrows), the son of Memphis music veteran and legend, Alan James (played by a satyr-like Rip Torn), comes back to visit his father and his young Russian girlfriend Laura (played by the unforgettable Russian actress Dina Korzun). It becomes clear that Michael and Alan’s relationship has a history of pain. But the film is Laura’s and the audience goes along with her through a process triggered by Michael’s arrival that will result in a cathartic self-discovery. Central to the film’s effectiveness and its atmosphere, sometimes so evocative that you can almost smell the time-warp of a house where Alan and Laura live, is its cinematography, simultaneously intimate and detached and almost three-dimensional in its configuration of space. The viewer also gets the impression of being a witness to some kind of truth pattern forming in front of their eyes, an unflinching type of emotional realism. Surely one of the best releases of this year that deserves wider attention. The DVD includes an interview with Sachs and another with Korzun.

Plus: That Man: Peter Berlin (Dir: Jim Tushinski, featuring Peter Berlin, Armistead Maupin, John Waters. Out on TLA releasing) – If there ever was a flesh-and-bone incarnation of Tom of Finland’s hyper masculine and hyper-hung homoerotic fantasies, that would be Peter Berlin. He was the man with a Prince Charming haircut and revealing tight white trousers who became an icon of gay 1970s erotica and, according to this documentary, a tourist attraction in San Francisco at the time, a sight to look out for when in town. But there’s only so much you can say about a person who made a few films, posed around and cruised. Director Jim Tushinski had to pad the documentary out with interviews (featuring Armistead Maupin and John Waters, among others) and interviews with the old Berlin. That Man: Peter Berlin does remind you, though, what life was like before the Aids crisis and it provides a glimpse into that time capsule, although you keep wishing that you were looking at Joe Dalessandro instead of Berlin’s dubious, Glam-ish blonde look.

40 Shades of Blue and That Man: Peter Berlin are out now. Please follow the links provided to buy a copy and help support Kamera by doing so.