Writing this shortly after viewing Upstream Color and reading various articles online explaining the film, my head’s still buzzing.Upstream Color seems less logic-driven [than Primer], but it’s a more emotional viewing experience.Upstream Color, now available on Netflix and VOD, is Shane Carruth’s long-in-the-making follow-up to his cult hit debut Primer. If there’s a common thread between both of Carruth’s movies, it’s that they’re both incredibly confusing. Content-wise, however, the two movies are incredibly different, almost opposites. I must say I liked the newer movie more. Primer seems to have gained its popularity due to the intense logic puzzles of its mathematically precise time-travel paradoxes. Maybe I’d have fun solving those puzzles if I gave a crap about the film’s cardboard characters. Upstream Color seems less logic-driven, but it’s a more emotional viewing experience. Primer was a movie about events, Upstream Color is a movie about people… and also pigs, and flowers, and worm virus thingies.
The story, as best I can tell: Kris (played by Amy Seimetz) is an effects artist who gets drugged with a mind control parasite and robbed by an unnamed thief (Thiago Martins). In some disturbing body horror scenes, the parasite is removed from her body by a farmer (Andrew Sensenig), a strange character who places the parasites in his pigs and also seems to like doing sound effects work on the side. Her life destroyed and her memory lost, she meets the similarly troubled Jeff (Carruth), with whom she forms a romance with. But is the romance their own, or are the parasites still influencing them? And how will they react to uncovering the truth of their past?Shot on consumer-grade digital cameras, Carruth nevertheless captures beautiful imagesIt sounds kind of ridiculous, but it’s compelling. It beautifully captures the fragility of Kris’s mind, the loss of control and the strain of the romance. Shot on consumer-grade digital cameras, Carruth nevertheless captures beautiful images, stringing them together in a fast-paced montage style which is appropriately disorienting and a good contrast to the slower pace of the plot. The music and sound design won an special award at Sundance, and it’s an amazing sounding movie. I’m still not sure what the significance of the farmer’s sound effects side hobby is, but it does provide an interesting Man with a Movie Camera-style look at a process Carruth excels at.
Upstream Color left me with a lot of questions, but unlike with Primer, I care enough to want to know the answers, or at least bathe in the mystery. If you want a break from the popcorn flicks and want to watch something challenging, Upstream Color‘s definitely worth checking out. At the very least, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.