Is that a bold statement? I hope so. This really isn’t a review, but more about letting people know this film is out there. I feel I have to be careful writing about this film. I don’t personally think that I know how to express my feelings when it comes to a film like this. Upstream Color is something different. Something fresh. Something unique. Something that many of you need to see….and yet, it’s not for some of you to see at all.
I don’t really want to give that much of a synopsis of the film. So please bare with me as I try to entice you into seeing this gem.
Shane Carruth directed, produced, wrote, created the music, edited and even stars in his second feature film. That is him in the poster up above. He is known for his 2004 film Primer which is about a few co-workers who accidentally discover time travel. If you have not seen it then see it. You will not be disappointed. Now he is back after eight years. All of which I am assuming he spent creating this new masterpiece he calls Upstream Color. But maybe he was thinking about this film before 2004, it would not surprise me. It is nice to see a film like this in this day and age. Yes I know that there are many great “independent” films out there that all deserve much praise, but this one stands out, and I might have also found my new favorite director.
Imagine if David Cronnenberg (Videodrome) and Terrance Malick (Tree of Life) had a child. And that child made a movie and then had Brian Eno (Roxy Music) create an amazing ambient soundtrack. Well, that is somewhat of a way to explain what we have going on here. But those comparisons don’t even come close to what we as the audience are in store for. I watched this going in pretty much blind other than seeing his first film and knowing a simple sentence some critic wrote after it was screened at Sundance. I don’t remember the exact sentence but the some of the words were worms, pigs, people, control, identity and connection. I hope those six words describing a science fiction film intrigue you…they did for me. Maybe it is safe to say that two people meet and have a romance. Thats safe isn’t it? Who doesn’t like a little romance in a film? Well it is in this and it works…all in many strange ways. Or should I say that people might find this film to be very pretentious. I don’t think it is but I’m sure people will argue that.
There, does that build a little hype? This film had my brain working from start to finish. It is not an easy film to digest at all. Almost every scene in the film has you asking yourself “why and how” over and over again. Something else that is interesting is the lack of dialogue in this film. Carruth is able to tell a story more so with image and emotion than spoken dialogue. Which I feel is somewhat like reading a book and making your own image of the story in your head. I had some theories about this film after I had watched it based on what he is showing us. But I don’t want to share them. I want to see what other people make of it and see if we are in the same ball park together.
So if you enjoy a smart original science fiction film laced with beautiful imagery, great acting and endless possibilites, this is it. A story like no others I have seen in a long time. You can go online and read others reviews about Upstream Color but I wouldn’t recommend it one bit. It’s not often people are able to go into a movie not knowing what they are about to experience. Remember, this is not a film for everyone. But those of you who do seek it out, you will not be disappointed. (It is playing in NYC at the IFC Center but comes out on DVD next Tuesday the 7th of May)