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UPSTREAM COLOR - Shane Carruth's second film

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
As you all know, with PRIMER, Shane Carruth announced himself to the world as a naturally gifted talent, one who could rival the likes of James Cameron. Of course, it never happened as he struggled to get his second film off the ground.

Nine years after PRIMER Shane Carruth's long awaited second film is as dense as expected, with an impossible to understand third act that still manages to intrigue due to its sheer technical mastery. With UPSTREAM COLOR Carruth proves (to me) he is not a one-shot wonder. He also proves he is the ultimate NYC and L.A. art-film director incapable of adapting to more mainstream story telling techniques.

Much has been written about the plot so I will not get into the specifics here. What I will say is that I think Carruth purposely holds critical information from his films as a way to challenge viewers and force them to think. This is admirable. But in the end, frustrating because with just a few answers or even some clues both PRIMER and now UPSTREAM COLOR would be fit for wider audiences without compromising artistic integrity.

The film made sense to me for about an hour and then it started to slip away. Like with Primer, I just lost my footing and could not gain hold. Amazingly enough, I still enjoyed the experience and was never bored, In fact, at times I was held in genuine suspense.

The third act has been described as 30 minutes without dialog and that simply is not true. There are numerous sequences without dialog and about halfway through we get a major sequence of events told with visuals and music. Then we have some more conventional filmmaking (conventional is really not the right word) followed by what I think might be around 15 minutes of dialog free visuals. The ending makes no sense to me, but I will see the film again and hope to sort it out.

Carruth designed the sound and composed the music and let me tell you, he hit both out of the park. The man could work scoring films and make a great living. The same goes for his sound design.

I watched the film at IFC in New York City and they have a pretty good sound system. What they don't have is a great screen. It might be the proper widescreen aspect ratio, but the images appeared darker in sections (almost like the projector lens suffered uneven burning between 1.85:1 and 2.35:1, so that you AVSers can understand what I mean) and that harmed Carruth's amazing visuals, rumored to have been captured with a hacked $700 Pansonic DSLR (the GH2). The image is akin to a RED or Alexa and throughout Carruth plays with shallow depths of field. This results in some shots missing the sharply focused mark, but for the most part the visuals shine. This film proves you do not need Hollywood style lighting and equipment to make Hollywood level films. This film is known to have cost less than 50 grand to shoot.

The Blu-Ray will be out in May and I have already put it on order at Amazon. There is no question in my mind that by year's end I will have sat through UPSTREAM COLOR numerous times.

I look forward to Carruth's next film, but with the hope for a little more clarity in his narrative
post #2 of 13
I will watch his next film though to be honest, I've watched PRIMER twice and still have no idea what it's about.
post #3 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt_Stevens View Post

What I will say is that I think Carruth purposely holds critical information from his films as a way to challenge viewers and force them to think.

I haven't seen Upstream Color yet, but I don't think it was necessarily purposeful the way that information was withheld in Primer. The nature of that movie's extreme low budget meant that Carruth could literally only afford to do one take of each shot. If the take didn't work due to an actor flub or technical issue, the shot didn't make the final cut and any story information in it was left out of the movie.

It's very possible that Carruth has honed this into a deliberate stylistic device in this second film, though.
post #4 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh Z View Post



It's very possible that Carruth has honed this into a deliberate stylistic device in this second film, though.
PLEASE don't say that....rolleyes.giffrown.gif
post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh Z View Post

I haven't seen Upstream Color yet, but I don't think it was necessarily purposeful the way that information was withheld in Primer. The nature of that movie's extreme low budget meant that Carruth could literally only afford to do one take of each shot. If the take didn't work due to an actor flub or technical issue, the shot didn't make the final cut and any story information in it was left out of the movie.

It's very possible that Carruth has honed this into a deliberate stylistic device in this second film, though.
I don't know if I buy that with Primer. I've watched the film four times now and listened to his commentary twice and I feel he was overtly cryptic. And I feel it's the same with his latest film. He is withholding critical information, forcing you to invent your own narrative. I think Upstream Color would be a masterpiece if he filled in just a few blanks, allowing the viewers who are paying attention to stay on sure footing.

By the way, I wish Carruth was releasing a Blu-Ray SE that had both of his films. PRIMER is not available on Blu-Ray. You can only get it as a 720p download. Yuck.
post #6 of 13
I still don't understand why Prime received so much attention.

Like Matt indicated, there are bits of the story omitted(?).
Or, what is more likely the case, what we have is just an ordinary half-baked screenplay.
Either way, the movie is more of a dud than anything else IMO.
post #7 of 13
Matt pretty much said it all. I saw it in a tiny repertory house barely a mile from the Doghouse, digitally projected ( I could see the screendoor pattern at first, though after it started I no longer noticed).

I liked it. It was deliberately obscure, that's for sure, and slow, and probably of no interest to most filmgoers, and more's the pity for that. As for what it was about, it seemed to me to be a variant on Invasion of the Body Snatchers with humans hi-jacked by organisms that create a group mind. Only different people have different motives as to what to do with the powers bestowed on them.

It's a beautifully photographed film. Obviously Carruth has been watching his Malick, and any number of other non-American films. And it's not so bad to make the audience work to figure out what you've been up to. He's sort of demonstrating-among all the other things-that though we try to find structure and meaning in existence and the universe, they are ultimately so complex as to not be fully comprehesible.
post #8 of 13
Primer is an excellent movie. IMO time travel done right. I've watched 3 times and now I understand 99% of it. There are bits that are open to interpretation but overall the movie is self contained and can be understood if people take the time.
post #9 of 13
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)

I'm just glad the piggies were not the devil.

post #10 of 13
What IF....Cronenberg....and Herzog...and Kubrick wrote a screenplay?

What IF....Terrence Malick was hired to direct?


ANSWER: Upstream Color.
post #11 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by oink View Post

What IF....Cronenberg....and Herzog...and Kubrick wrote a screenplay?

What IF....Terrence Malick was hired to direct?


ANSWER: Upstream Color.
I really liked this enigmatic movie.
Much more polished than Primer.

I was transfixed by the music and engaged with the story from the beginning.

Will be ordering the BD.smile.gif
post #12 of 13

Just discovered this morning that this is available on Netflix WI. Next in the queue for me . . .
 

post #13 of 13
Will this man ever get a decent budget to work with? Both this and Primer are excellent movies.
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