Tuesday, July 9, 2013

In short: Upstream Color (2013)

I'm sure some people will want someone to explain Shane Carruth's second movie, following the (really not that difficult to parse) brilliant Primer, to them, possibly with a helpful power point presentation and all the exposition the movie doesn't give. Of course, that would be rather missing the point. Carruth's sometimes effusive, sideways approach to narrative - not completely changed from Primer's yet still different because it has a different goal and belongs to a different kind of narrative - really wants a viewer to explain the meaning(s) of what's going on in Upstream Color for and to themselves, to gain their own understanding of "what it's about".

Carruth's narrative style does everything but shout at its audience to press it into active engagement with the film, even while the film insists on us giving up on preconceived notions of narrative structure and falling into the rhythm(s) it suggests instead. If you're not willing to follow Carruth in this, there's probably little you'll get out of the film than boredom and confusion, but if you do try to engage Upstream Color on its own level, you'll probably be richly rewarded by a film that's concentrated while it pretends to be loose, emotionally moving while it pretends to be analytical, and really more structured like a poem (I'm rather tempted to say like a dream, but dreams in my experience seldom are this precise) than like most other movies.

This approach seems to be rather fitting for a film that circles questions of the blurring of identity, love, and mental illness, all things where a certain effusiveness and looseness of thought is needed to actually understand them.

I'd call Upstream Color the SF romance movie of the year but I may be simplifying things a tad here.

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