Title: Upstream Color
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi
Director: Shane Carruth
Writer: Shane Carruth
Music: Shane Carruth
Cinematography: Shane Carruth
Almost a decade after his befuddling debut PRIMER (2004), UPSTREAM COLOR, the jack-of-all-trades Shane Carruth’s greatly anticipated second film arrives with a splashy strut to renounce himself as a flash in the pan because it is a more ambitious, mythological and introspective dissection of a preternatural communications among life forms (in particular, human, pigs, grubs and lilies).
A young woman Kris (Seimetz) abducted by a thief (Martins), who plants parasitic grubs into her body, hypnotically mind-controls her and embezzles all her money from the bank; after the thief left, a mysterious swineherd aka. The Sampler (Sensenig) removes the grubs out of her system, grafts them inside a piglet, therefore forms an uncanny interrelation between Kris and the piglet, then releases Kris back to her normal life, through the piglet the Sampler can observe his specimen in his pig farm. Afterward, Kris meets Jeff (Carruth himself), and they bond together romantically, filters through their trips and spats, spectators will realize Jeff is another sample, their memories intermingle with each other, Kris suffers from auditory hallucinations, both slip into mental instability. Later on, things emerge to a crescendo, they trace the path to the Sampler’s farm and all the human guinea pigs are assembled to reunite with their porcine linkages.
My account may not be 100% accurate as in Carruth’s narrative everything is shattered in fragments and the film is overcrowded with inexplicable behavioral quirks and environmental drifts, the exhausting duologue with abstruse drabness doesn’t help either. But it is the originality that being salient here to broaden our horizons within a micro Sci-Fi scale, Carrith’s execution may be controversial for what it is worth suggested from his two films so far, without doubt he is a mastermind with transcendental imagination which is a rare bird in the woods of derivativeness and stereotypes.
The Sampler in the movie is also a sound collector, so consistently there are protruding sound effects abound, from lower bass humming, crispy ding-dong, intangible rumbling to tepid string droning, married with mannered montages drenched in dazzling timber, if this isn’t an epitome of equivocality between highbrow solipsism and ostentatious narcissism, I cannot think anything else.
Amy Seimetz (from THE KILLING Season 3) is the unwavering leading lady in this film, gives a performance seething with unpredictable neurosis, breakdowns, helplessness and determination. While Carruth, the director, writer, cinematographer, composer and actor, whom one just cannot avoid be awed and overpraising.
Obviously like PRIMER, it is another film ramifies dissonant readings and interpretations, but if it will ever reach the criterion of prime precedents like Mulholland Dr. (2001, 9/10), an earnest advice to Mr. Carruth, getting out of the esoteric comfort zone a little, demystifying the undecipherable a bit and taking a deep breath before editing the fodder.