Ira Sachs’ Married Life arrives on DVD this week. His follow-up to his Sundance Grand Prize-winning breakthrough film Forty Shades of Blue is an ambitious challenge: a 1940s melodrama of adultery and murder played as wry comedy of manners and directed in a naturalistic style with a modern sensibility. Perhaps comedy is a misleading label. Call it an irony, and a deftly played one at that: a cool, wry noir cast in a sleek yet understated period dÃ©cor and played with a maturity and introspection in place of overheated emotions. In April, I talked with Sachs about the film, his great cast (Pierce Brosnan, Chris Cooper, Patricia Clarkson, and Rachel McAdams), the period and that subtle alchemy of tone and genre (the biggest revelation was the film’s never-identified setting: “Married Life” takes place in Seattle!). A digest version of the phone interview ran in the Seattle P-I as a “Moment With Ira Sachs” featurette. Here is the complete interview.
What was it about the book, â€œFive Roundabouts to Heaven,â€ that made you say: â€œThis is my next project.â€?
Iâ€™ve always been interested in psychological stories and character-driven stories. Right before I started working on this, Iâ€™d seen a lot of Joan Crawford movies and Bette Davis movies and Barbara Stanwyck movies and Fred MacMurray movies, a kind of old-fashioned storytelling that was usually over-the-top and larger-than-life in terms of the plot, but something about them really resonated for me personally. So I decided thatâ€™s what I wanted to do, I wanted to make one of those kinds of films without being a retro film. I just liked the way those stories were told. I spent a summer reading old pulp mysteries. People often say that you can make a movie out of a pulp fiction better than a movie out of a classic and I think there is some reason for that because thereâ€™s something more you can play with. And what I liked about this book particularly was that in the course of the story, when you learn more about each of the characters, you realize that, at its heart, itâ€™s a really humanist story about relationships. Even though itâ€™s a genre film, itâ€™s also a humanist film. What I thought was quite true about the emotional stakes of these people within their marriages, even again if itâ€™s over the top in its structure, it resonated for me personally within my own relationships.