Friday, April 19, 2013

UPSTREAM COLOR Review - Javi's Take

Directed by: Shane Carruth
Written by: Shane Carruth
Starring: Shane Carruth, Amy Seimetz, Andrew Sensenig, and Thiago Martins
Synopsis: Love, worms, pigs, and existential self-identity.

There's at least one movie every year that stays with you, and it's not for any super technical reasons but for purely emotional reasons. UPSTREAM COLOR is that movie that has fit that mold this year. This is the second directorial effort by PIRMER director (and Dallas native) Shane Carruth, and it's a vastly different affair his previous movie. I was able to see this with Jonesy last Tuesday with Mr. Carruth in attendance.

To try to explain the movie would be a little futile, but it's essentially a love story that has science fiction and very philosophical undertones. After suffering a traumatic experience, Kris (Amy Seimetz) meets Jeff (Carruth), and they quickly develop a romantic relationship. What they don't know is just how much in common they have, and how that will affect their relationship. Oh, and there's copious amount of adorable pigs. And even that description is not truly accurate.

What you will experience will be a movie that is told in the most abstract movie that's told in chronological order. There are cuts that go from scene to scene that portray a passage of time that can be a year for the characters or maybe minutes in between. This happens frequently, and it will be a deterrent to some people. There is a overall disorienting and confusing feel to the movie in the way which it was edited and how the story is being told. It's only until you see the entire film that a lot of the images finally begin to make sense. The movie deals with very interesting themes of self-identity and subjectivity through some very strange channels. It could be classified as an emotional science fiction movie, but once again, that would be doing the movie a little disservice.

A rather annoying individual in our Q&A insisted that there was no context for many of the scenes, and I could not disagree more. However, he personifies the issue that this might be a movie that most people won't like. They wouldn't be necessarily faulted for it since the movie has pretty heavy themes and chooses to tell them in a difficult manner. But if you are will to dig a little deeper, the experience will be a rich one. What is particularly interesting is comparing how different PRIMER and UPSTREAM COLOR are. Whereas PRIME has always been talked about in terms of how complicated the story is and how confusing the time travel concept is, UPSTREAM COLOR is more of an emotional journey. While the Internet has spent years making charts and plotting out the exact timeline of PRIMER, in UPSTREAM COLOR, there are, what some people would consider, plot holes in the movie. While those can be egregious to some, these plot holes outweigh the thematic purpose the film conveys.

This is a movie should be seen in theaters. It is an experience where both sound and images combine harmoniously to create a feeling of confusion that mirrors that of the characters. The score goes from being orchestral to sounding electronic depending on the scene and the mood. Not only is the score amazing but the sound design matches it as well. The movie has a character who is credited as the Sampler. He goes around various scenes sampling sounds from nature and manipulating them. He also has a cool non-existent 4 track sampler and a MIDI player. The way that he creates music within the movie made me want to bust out my old keyboards and do some sound manipulation on it. The score that Carruth composed for the movie was outstanding. Carruth has released a vinyl record of the score here for anyone interested.

But more importantly, Carruth and Seimetz were both phenomenal in their acting. This is definitely Seimetz' show and seeing her transformation from the person that she was at the beginning of the movie to where she ends up is amazing. Not only is there physical change, but Kris as a character just acts like an entirely different person. Carruth as Jeff is not nearly in the movie as much but the few times that he gets to act out are better than anything he did during PRIMER.

UPSTREAM COLOR will be a highly divisive movie. It has a very unique way of telling a story of the concept of perception, subjectivity, and even just about how darn cute baby pigs can be. It's definitely one of the movies that people will talk about for years to come and a personal favorite of the year so far.

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