Monday, July 1, 2013

Upstream Color - Carruth (Movie)

The intriguing poster
depicting the best moment in the film.

Welcome to Upstream Color, the second film by Shane Carruth. The first film was Primer, which I have reviewed on this blog as well. I'm locked in a battle with myself right now, trying to decide if I want to say that Upstream Color is my new favorite movie. I'm not sure if I'm ready to say that, as I've only seen it twice as opposed to the dozen-and-a-half or so views I've got under my belt for Primer, but it's safe to say that this is one of my favorite films of all time.

It's impossible to deal effectively with this film without referring to Primer, although the films are not actually in any kind of continuity with one another. However, it's clear that they are of the same school, namely the School of Carruth. It's not at all imperative to watch Primer before Upstream Color, but I recommend it. I do not believe Color would have been possible without Primer.

Like Primer, Color is a complex and provocative film. Intentionally confusing, the movie dares you to figure it out. Also like Primer (as well as another notable film that's been reviewed), this is not a movie you watch at the end of the day to unwind and have fun. (Goodbye half of the article's readers.) It's not the kind of movie you watch with a group of your buddies so you can laugh and chat over the film. If you hope to get anything out of Color, you're going to need to give it your full attention. And that is the main point I want to hit on today. This is a film that asks for your full attention, and really delivers.

Too often, I fear, we as art intakers like what we like because we like it, not because it will enlarge or enrich us. I've said this (or something like it) before: there's more possible for art than we give art credit for. We live in a society of quick satisfaction. A world of "if it feels good do it." Now, I'm not saying there isn't a time and a place for relaxing or just good old-fashion fun. Of course there is. There is also a time and a place for being pushed around. For work. For giving up something for something better. That is the invitation extended by films like Upstream Color. It isn't easy to figure out. Nothing is given to the viewer on a silver platter. The scenes shift from one moment to the next in a disconcerting flash of colors and sounds. There are textures here. There are layers and layers of meaning.

You'll notice I haven't mentioned the plot or premise. This movie is about a pig farm. If that doesn't satiate your curiosity, then why not just watch the film? It's on Netflix right now. I, of course, suggest not looking up anything more about this film until after you've watched it.

What'd I tell you?

Watch it. Then watch it again. Marvel at how much you are being engaged. How much you are thinking. Don't expect to have fun (although you might)--expect to learn. This movie could just about give you a headache if you're not careful, not that I recommend caution here. Here is a film you give yourself to in at least some small way. This is an experimental film that pushes the edges a little. It doesn't really feel like just a movie. It is a philosophy. It is a performance. It is a living painting. But, perhaps above all this, it is a challenge.

Before wrapping up I feel it would be a mistake to not mention how excellent the acting is (especially from our leading lady Amy Seimetz), the cinematography, and Carruth's ability to be indulgent without ruining everything. In my own writing, this is something I envy greatly. Oh yes, I should also mention that as with Primer Carruth wrote, directed, produced, starred in, and composed the music for this film. Pretty sweet.

Alright, go to.

-MA 07.01.2014

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