Review: Upstream Color

Upstream Color
9 10

This review originally ran as part of our Sundance 2013 coverage.
PLOT: Kris (Amy Seimetz) is an ambitious exec who, after a chance encounter at a nightclub, wakes up after several days to find she's lost her job, along with all of her savings. She's even lost her home equity. Some time later, she's drawn to a man named Jeff (Shane Carruth)- and the two fall deeply in love. But could it be that there's more than just their feelings that draws them together?

REVIEW: UPSTREAM COLOR is a film that's all but impossible to summarize. My synopsis is only vaguely what this film is about, and to say anything more would be a real cheat, as this is the kind of film you really need to walk into with a blank slate. Like writer/director/actor Shane Carruth's last film, PRIMER, UPSTREAM is an incredibly complex film, and extremely difficult to decipher. After watching the film, a line of dialogue from it (“those could be starlings”) became a kind of code, meaning- yes, I've seen UPSTREAM COLOR, and yes- lets spend the next few hours discussing it.

Indeed, UPSTREAM COLOR is so complicated, it makes David Lynch's MULHOLLAND DRIVE seem incredibly straightforward by comparison. As such, it's not for everyone. Like it or hate it- you certainly can't dismiss it, as UPSTREAM has enough going on within it's ninety minute running time for ten movies. I spoke to people at the fest who despised it but, after being pressed, admitted they can't stop thinking about it.

As for myself, I absolutely fell in love with UPSTREAM COLOR. To me, it works on so many levels. On the one hand, it's very high-concept (and high-brow) sci-fi- a la Kurt Vonnegut, or Ray Bradbury. On the other, it's a really affecting romance about two damaged souls brought together by forces beyond their control. Most importantly, it's a mind-f**k that will confuse the hell out of you, but you''l like it regardless.

Take away the complexity, and you still have a lot to love about it. Shane Carruth and Amy Seimetz are excellent as the two lovers, with their relationship feeling authentic, and never hitting a false note. Often, in sci-fi, the romance can feel contrived, but it doesn't here- and I firmly believe that even without the mind-bending element it would still work as a romance.

In addition to writing, producing, directing, and starring in the film- Carruth also did the cinematography, wrote the music, and edited the film (with an assist from AIN'T THEM BODIES SAINTS director David Lowery). He seems to have succeed on all levels, with the photography being gorgeous, the minimalist soundtrack being deeply affecting, and the cutting keeping everything going at a relatively quick pace.

But again, UPSTREAM COLOR won't be for everyone. Films this complicated rarely are- but, after discussing it for hours and hours with my Sundance roommates, I think I have it figured out. It has something to do with pigs, Thoreau's Walden, and experimental bass-driven music. Confused yet? Yeah- so am I, but I like it. You will too.

Extra Tidbit: I realize this is a really vague review, but I couldn't imagine spoiling this for anyone.
Source: JoBlo.com



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