Friday, May 17, 2013
The things that are easiest to decode are this: Kris (Amy Seimetz, a wonderful new screen presence) and Jeff (Carruth) meet one a train one day and over time start to date and become lovers. Their relationship is built on something larger and their connection is hinged upon something bigger-- both are intrinsically linked by a cosmic, nearly universal pull. Carruth, the prankster and philosopher stages this love story in the least tidy and messiest of science fiction/art house gone mad of stories, but builds a lovely sense of investment (coupled with confusion) to Kris and Jeff. In the beginning of the film, Kris is drugged with a psychotropic worm by a thief who in tern steals her money. It starts as a horror freak show with a few nauseatingly terse sequences that are truly frightening. Upstream Color is one of the rare films that can seemingly lull you with the prospect of the wonder of cinematic possibility, which (in)plausibly rears feelings of fear over the anxiety of whatever could possibly happen next.
What does it all mean? That may only be knowable by Carruth himself, who not only directed and acted in the film, but also wrote, produced, scored, lensed and self distributed Upstream Color, but in its elliptical, nonsensical way works as a compelling and absorbing mind bender for audiences willing to submit themselves for a heady chiller. There's a seemingly vast mythology to the film itself-- presented in the strained courtship of Kris and Jeff, whose romance is singed by memories that are collective, even though they are strangers. There's an even more mysterious stranger who may be pulling the strings, referred to only in the credits as, "The Sampler," played with sketchy motivations by Andrew Sensenig, who appears to be scoring the soundtrack to the broken and heartbroken of the film-- the film to it's credit is a master class in sound design with a showy, but beautifully calibrated Foley Scheme that may or may not be further connective to the broader story. What's important instead, rather than pulling ones hair out to find narrative clarity, is to surrender to the intoxicating and elegant pleasures of Carruth's strange and weird world-- the show itself is a confounding comfort.
Carruth was recently name-checked in Steven Soderbergh's recent "Hollywood is doomed" speech he gave at the San Francisco Film Festival. In it, the famed, maybe retired director named Carruth one of the visionary filmmakers that Hollywood should entrust more of, and while that's high praise and it seems appropriate that Soderbergh, whose made a career out navigating the industry with lush big product mixed with teeny-tiny, strange chamber pieces of movies would be a follower and fan of Carruth. However, I feel that Hollywood would doubtfully ever successfully taint or lure someone like Carruth because even with only two films under his belt, the confidence and verve he's established is clearly demonstrated only from a filmmaker with his own clear (however indecipherable) vision. One marked by an unbendable talent that could only exist in the throes of independent cinema and for only the bravest of audiences. B