Director Shane Carruth returns with ‘Upstream Color’
Indie darling filmmaker Shane Carruth finally delivers his long awaited follow up to 2004’s surprise hit “Primer”, as the film starts an exclusive run at the Tiff Bell Lightbox April 12, Upstream Color. Upstream is a bolder and larger in scope. A more diverse effort from Carruth that will challenge even the most patient audience with its abstract metaphors and nonlinear story telling that is never broken down and explained for the viewer. This is the type of film that will have audiences in discussion for hours and days after, and will either be loved or vilified in the process.
Written and Directed by Shane Carruth
Kris (Seimetz) is a young office worker who when out for dinner out night is kidnapped and drugged by a thief (Martins), who implants her with a strange foreign body. After a length of time, Kris is released and returned to her home and job. Kris discovers that the mysterious procedure to which she has been subjected has rendered her intensely sensitive to the unceasing rhythms of the natural world: sounds, colors even microscopic biological processes envelop her in a constant sensory wave. She soon meets a former stockbroker named Jeff (Carruth), whose own speedily derailing life indicates that he might have been a victim of the same operation. Guided by passages from Thoreau’s Walden, the couple set out to unravel the mystery of their inexplicable condition.
Part speculative sci-fi, part romantic thriller, Upstream Color will rank as one of the most provocative and daring American independent films of the year. The film is almost challenging you at every corner and daring you to keep up and figure out what you think is going on. Trying to explain the intricacies of the script would be pointless and drive this review well past the 1000 word mark, likely without coming to a formal conclusion. The film feels at points like a rape allegory, a drug induced fantasy and a cautionary tale about abortion and the hollow emotional effects of losing a child. The entire film takes place in a ‘circle of life’ enclosure as each action results in a reaction and when the chain is broken the effects change the course of the story.
The film has an ‘organic meets chemistry’ feel that is truly unique and carries a minimalized feel that also plays out in the small, tight cast. Seimetz is becoming a ‘go to’ girl for indie projects with recent roles in Adam Wingard’s “A Horrible Way to Die” and “You’re Next” as well as Lena Dunham’s “Tiny Furniture” and a starring role on AMC’s TV show “The Killing”. It’s easy to see why as she very good here and is entirely believable even in the most far-fetched situations that occur. Carruth is decent enough as Jeff, but is clearly and prominently out shined by Seimetz at every turn. Andrew Sensening plays ‘the sampler’ and has nary a word in the entire movie, his dialogue equating to about a minute of total time, but his presence seems omnipresent throughout the last 2 thirds of the film. Thiago Martins leaves a lasting impact though throughout the film after his emotionally vacant yet menacing turn as the rapist/thief who drastically changes the course of our leads lives.
Upstream Color is the definition of an enigma. Even as this review is being written, the overall rating and impact is being bantered around and debated in this critic’s head. The film will have an impact even if the film is loved or hated, this will be the most talked about and debated film you will see this year, and yes this film will be extremely divisive with lots of vitriol sure to be spit along with its critical adoration. And for that at least Upstream Color is a recommend.
For more information on the film and tickets/showtimes check out the TIFF online schedule.
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- an interview with Shane Carruth, filmmaker behind ‘Upstream Color’ and its score (stream it) (brooklynvegan.com)
- Film: Movie Review: Upstream Color (avclub.com)
- ‘Upstream Color’ Review: A Heady, Intuitive Triumph (slashfilm.com)