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Upstream Color [Celluloid Hero]


Upstream Color  (2013)

Shane Carruth wrote, directed, and starred in ‘Primer’ back in 2004. That movie was…weird. Carruth’s followup ‘Upstream Color’ is also…weird. Carruth has a distinct style, with a heavy emphasis on sound. ‘Primer’ was basically a couple guys mumbling to eachother (while traveling through time!), and ‘Upstream Color’ is filled with unremarkable dialogue. The thing is, despite having no quotable or memorable lines, the movie tells the story mostly through visual and auditory ways. And somehow, it all works.

While I was watching, I had no clue what was happening. When I took a step back, I realized that the main skeleton of the plot was actually fairly simple, if unbelievable. A mysterious guy is collecting larvae that feasted on a plant that possesses some sort of psychoactive properties that make people completely susceptible to any suggestions. The larvae are then forced into a victim, who then basically becomes a zombie slave. The ‘bad guy’ makes the victim empty bank accounts, then disappears. The victim is left broke, with no recollection of what happened over the past few days.

All of this happens in the first act, and we spend the rest of the movie watching Kris try to put her life back together. She meets Jeff, and there is an instant, if undefinable, connection. As they get closer they begin to realize they’ve experienced the same thing. As more memories arise, they start to learn more about who may have done this to them, and the emotions rise and fall before coming to an explosive climax.

Carruth also composed the score, which is dreamy, ethereal, and absolutely fitting for the movie. The camerawork on this is floaty, choppy, full of color, and dreamlike. The soundtrack mirrors that perfectly, with moments of sweeping orchestration along with moments of white noise, at times overpowering the dialogue. It’s an experience to watch this movie.

I enjoyed ‘Primer’ even if I didn’t get it at all. If I wanted to introduce someone to Carruth, I think ‘Upstream Color’ would be a bit easier to get into, and definitely worth your time to watch.

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On the [Celluloid Hero] scale, “Upstream Color” gets an 8 out of 10.





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