my expectations for upstream color were high - I hadn't been looking forward to a film this much in many, many years. I saw primer right at the start of my second year at tisch and it energized me in a way that few modern films could - here was a first time director whose minuscule budget didn't hold him back but instead made him thrive. shane carruth crafted a complex, fascinating narrative that (whether or not it actually makes sense in the end) that felt limitless in scope, despite the very real limitations imposed by the production itself. not only that, he also did everything - he wrote, shot it, starred in it, directed it, and edited it. just....wow. it's a film that I can still turn to for inspiration whenever I need to.
enough small talk - this film completely destroyed my expectations in every way imaginable. as carruth himself has said, the film is about the life cycle of a biological organism - in this case, a fictional type of worm. throughout the film we follow that worm, and the path of destruction in its wake, as it grows, matures, and spawns new life. but it's also about the flawed cycle of mankind - we are born, we go through life, destroy ourselves, spawn, and it starts all over again. until, that is, we take it upon ourselves to root out that flaw, expose it, and endeavor to change it.
eventually the pair track down the man who removed the worm to discover that he is also the reason for its propagation. but they refuse to let the cycle continue, stopping it dead before another life can be consumed and also, in the process, changing the course of not only their lives, but all of the others than have been affected by the parasite.
technically, this film is an achievement of the highest level. the structure, the editing, the camera work, the shot choice and composition - it's all absolutely stunning. there isn't a single throwaway shot in the entire ninety minute-plus runtime. so even if you find the story ludicrous and the acting forgettable, at least know that you're witnessing one of the most visually spectacular films in years. there are no epic CGI battle scenes, no high-speed car chases, no visits to alien worlds. everything here is natural, real, tangible. and it's a genuine visual work of art.
all in all, this is certainly not a film for everyone, but if you're a frequent reader of this blog, I urge you to go see it - I'm sure you'll leave with something positive.
upstream color is in limited release all over the country in major markets - los angeles, new york, boston, chicago, etc. - and will be opening in many more over the coming weeks. see it and help support the most essential kind of cinema being made today - that which is incredibly minimal, stunningly experimental, and, most of all, deeply rewarding.
(release dates, cities, and theaters for upstream color.)
(stream the soundtrack on soundcloud.)