Anyone reading this blog knows I’m a big fan of Shane Carruth’s Primer. If you have not yet experienced it, it’s currently streaming on Netfilx. That film took Sundance by storm back in 2004, and since then, the filmmaker behind it has keep a relatively low profile.
Now, suddenly, we have Upstream Color. Folks - I’m not even sure where to start. I saw this film on a Sunday evening. It’s now Friday, and I’m still attempting to figure out how to talk about it. It’s an original, bold, fresh, ambitious film that demands your attention and imagination. It’s playing in limited release around the country in April, and moving to Blu-Ray, On Demand, and Streaming Services in May.
But how do we begin? Tricky. For starters, here is the trailer.
But what’s it about? It’s an excellent question. I hesitate to answer because I don’t wish to influence your experience too much. The colder you are when you see it, the better. Let’s see. Upstream Color is a film about cycles, trauma, relationships - both direct and indirect, identity, behavior, Henry David Thoreau, worms, pigs, and orchids. I almost feel I should add, “And Lenny Bruce is not afraid.”
The film is a kaleidoscopic wonder that is told with very little dialogue. Images dictate the narrative and gently nudge you along it’s intricately woven path of discovery. The camera work is hauntingly beautiful with an eye toward slight over-exposure and softer focus then many will be used to. The editing is confident in it’s presentation of information, yet lyrical in it’s emotional arrangement of ideas. Also exceptional is the sound design. It’s mesmerizing, hypnotic and completely enthralling.
The glue binding all this technical competence together is the actors. Amy Seimetz, Shane Carruth, Andrew Sensenig and Thiago Martins turn in finely tuned performances in which a good deal of the narrative is reflected in their faces and body language rather then what they are saying to each other.
As we are standing on the precipice of the generally mind-numbing Summer Movie Season, Upstream Color serves as a welcome reminder that not all entertainment needs to be a “turn your brain off” experience. Indeed, this is a film that requires you to pay attention and help with the heavy lifting. It’s challenging without slipping into pretension. It’s engaging and thought provoking and open to interpretation.
Seek it out. This one is worth your time.