UPSTREAM COLOR (2013)


upstream Greetings again from the darkness. This is no typical movie, so these will not be typical comments. In 2004, Dallas-based filmmaker Shane Carruth became something of a cult hero with the Sundance Festival crowd when his debut film PRIMER won a Grand Jury Award. Nine years later, we get his follow-up … the ultimate artsy, indie film for those who thrive on analysis and prefer to avoid a story-ending wrapped up with a neat bow.

These comments will not give you much, but I can tell you the screening and subsequent Q&A with Mr. Carruth had many viewers who were frustrated and confused. The fragmented narrative can be a bit disorienting and it avoids the usual staple of a resolution at the end. The audience knows more than the characters, yet the audience is baffled while the characters just continue on.

upstream2 The first segment of the film is when it’s at its most traditional. We see Thief (Thiago Martins) perform some type of worm/parasite procedure that slowly brainwashes Kris (Amy Seimetz) or leads to mind control or loss of personality … just depends how you prefer to describe it. We then see The Sampler (Andrew Sensenig) help her overcome thanks to a blood transfusion on his pig farm. Yes, really. Finally, Kris bonds with Jeff (Shane Carruth) as they seek to reassemble their lives and re-discover themselves. Watching them bicker over who belongs to what memory is frightening and fascinating. It makes you question the definition of personal identity, and what if we lost that (or it was stolen).

upstream3 Nature plays a huge role her, along with the connection to Thoreau’s “Walden”. Many will use the term pretentious. Some will call it boring without a point. Still others will be drawn in by the imagery and sound (or sometimes effective lack thereof). Shane Carruth does not fit Hollywood and neither do his films. He is a writer, producer, director, co-editor, cinematographer, and actor. He clearly has a love of the material and his choice of Amy Seimetz really makes the film work. She is outstanding (and also a filmmaker). The tired phrase “it’s not for everyone” certainly applies here, but if you are a Terrence Malick fan or just enjoy being challenged by somewhat abstract themes, this one is worth a look.

watch the trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5U9KmAlrEXU

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