Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Short Cut Movie Review: Upstream Color

Short Cut Movie Review is normally less than 400 words, but in some cases may go slightly over. This is my attempt to keep writing about as many films as I see without getting bogged down with trying to find more to say. They are meant to be brief snapshots of my reaction to a movie without too much depth.

Upstream Color is another puzzler of a movie from writer-director Shane Carruth. In his first feature after the time-bending confusion of Primer, he tackles romance, animal treatment, and psychotropic drugs, although note in any straightforward manner. Any description of what takes place will fall far short of sufficient. Carruth makes films that need to be experienced and puzzled over. Suffice it to say there is a woman named Kris (Amy Seimetz) who becomes  akind of puppet victim at the hands of a thief who uses a plant extract and a parasitic worm to drug people and then exert ypnotic control over them until he gets thousands of dollars out of their bank accounts. Kris’s life falls apart after she’s unable to explain an extended absence from work or the loss of all equity in her house. Later she meets  Jeff (Carruth), a man who seems to have many share experience with her and they fall in love, or at least have some kind of affinity and connection to one another.

Parallel to the human action there is a pig farmer (Andrew Sensenig) who also performs sound experiments from esoteric recordings made using different found objects. The pigs that he sometimes lulls with the sound records seem to have some metaphysical connection to the humans who have been victimized by the thief.

I don’t want to pore too deeply into the mysteries of the movie or what all the symbolism may or may not mean. I have some theories, but to me it’s much more interesting to read the film as one of the best intersections of experimental and narrative filmmaking. Carruth’s style looks an awful lot like Terrence Malick’s and TheTree of Life especially appears to have been a major influence on the editing and movement of Upstream Color.

The moment I decided I wasn’t going to try to understand in a conventional sense what the film was about, the easier it became to be enveloped by its trance-like or dream-inducing qualities. The scenes transport you between moments that appear to be disconnected from one another, yet the film never feels disjointed. It’s elegant and beautiful and a fascinating experiment in using images to craft a story. The nearly complete lack of dialogue through the first half of the film is as close to pure cinema as anyone has come since Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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