on 25 May 2013
I must say that I always find it a treat when the company who issues a dvd or bluray pays great attention to the packaging, the menus, doesn't annoy me with trailers from movies I don't want to see or worse that I can't skip etc. This release has all this. I saw the poster of this movie on Instagram and got intrigued. Checked out the trailer and was sold. Now after having watched this film I'm (still) not a 100% sure what it's about. But I can say that I really liked it and will watch it again. In contrast to the huge amount of people who watch movies solely for entertainment and do not care about the photography and artdirection of a movie there seem to be a group of people who enjoy watching beautiful things, even if they don't (fully) understand them. This goes for all kinds of art. These people seem to be sick of all the vulgarity that surrounds us ... everywhere and are dying for a dose of beauty. I am surprised but very happy that there is still room and yes money for thes ekind of movies. Take some time to watch something worth while.
Similar to Shane Carruth’s previous movie Primer, this film is undoubtedly enigmatic and with a narrative which is far from straightforward will not appeal to everybody (massive understatement). It is a fascinatingly obtuse film which challenges the viewer to interpret its meaning(s) within their own universe. The pacing of the movie is at times unbearably slow and with its beautiful imagery and ethereal soundtrack feels hauntingly other-worldly and despite its somnambulist presentation the film has a pervasive overwhelming melancholic intensity bordering on insanity and dread. Although there is a discernible (eventually) plot involving worms harvested for nefarious purposes many underlying themes are explored, in particular that of the connectedness of the human condition, very reminiscent of the films of Terrence Malick. The movie contains some genuinely unsettling scenes, including one which would not be out of place in a David Cronenberg film. Definitely a film which deserves more than one viewing.
on 18 April 2014
A friend described this to me as the most pretentious film ever, but good anyway. That fairly well sums it up. If you want to watch something self-consciously arty without an immediately obvious linear narrative, without any car chases, no loud explosions, no lengthy expositions etc this is just the film.
I enjoyed it at the cinema and then watching it again on DVD enjoyed it even more. It's the sort of film where you pick up on a lot more the second time through.
In the current packaging it's being presented as some sort of thriller. This is a bit misleading. I think the original billing of it being a story about people entangled within the life-cycle of a worm is probably more accurate.
It is very different from Primer. Much less about plot and more about themes. It is also very sensuous - a lot of attention is put into savouring the images and sounds, which is in part what the film is about. There's a lot of Walden in there too. Very much a contemplative film.
on 16 October 2014
After a long wait following Primer, Auter Shane Carruth finally unleashed this absolute gem, and showed us all that it was worth the wait. More a surreal drama rather than horror or thriller, with echoes of Cronenbergian body horror early on in the film, it's actually quite a simple story following two lost souls, previously the victims of a con involving harvested parasites. It's not necessarily the plot that makes the film so brilliant, it's the elliptical yet hypnotic way in which it is told, perfectly mixing imagery and sound to create an intoxicating concoction, even the way the dialogue is spoken can raise the hairs on the back of your neck.
Definitely a film to be savoured again and again, with things becoming clearer on each subsequent viewing, and one that seems to linger in the mind days after viewing.
The disc itself is lacking in extras, although this maybe a case for the better, leaving you to interpret the films many possible meanings yourself.
on 27 June 2013
This is the second film from director/writer/actor/producer/editor/composer Shane Carruth, his first film being Primer which has become a cult classic amongst hardcore sci-fi fans. Both films treat the audience as adults, they give enough detail about the characters and story to allow the viewer to piece everything together without spelling it out. At no point do our characters explain everything to the viewers, they show, not tell.
The film starts with the hunt for worms in the soil of blue orchids, after finding the right worm this is used to 'drug' our main character Kris in a nightclub. The worm places Kris under a 'spell' where 'The Thief' makes her empty her bank accounts and hand over the cash. To keep her busy The Thief makes Kris carry out pointless tasks like writing out pages of Thoreau's "Walden" and making them into paper-chains. Once The Thief has his money Kris is abandoned by the side of a road. Kris finds 'The Sampler' who removes the worm from her body into that of a pigs. From here Kris starts to rebuild her life as she has no money and lost her job, this is where she meets Jeff. We learn these two being drawn together is no accident as they both try and make sense of their actions and break the orchid/worm/pig cycle.
The whole experience is like a lucid dream, created by the shallow depth of field and close-ups in most character shots. The atmosphere is created by layers of sound, the pulsing score is noticeable throughout the film, other sounds we generally class as background noise are brought to the foreground and used to create natural rhythms. Some of the key points in the film are actually highlighted by the lack of sound where you stop drifting and take note. The use of layers also exist in the story, the interaction with nature plays a large part, so does the text from Walden which pulls on the ideas of spirit and transcendentalism. This is also seen in the characters who become stripped of personality and emotion, and need each other to rebuild themselves above where they were before. Along with this are the concepts of privacy, intimacy, memory and individuality, what is it that makes us human and different to others. One of the most touching scenes is when our couple are sharing memories and not knowing whose memory is whose.
Each performance matches the subtle, delicate and rolling style of the film, the dialogue is sparse in places where we can concentrate solely on the imagery and score. This is very much a piece of art. I look forward to Carruth's future work.
on 11 March 2016
How anybody could possibly know what this film was about simply by watching it, is beyond me. The critics describe it as beautiful, breathtaking, bewitching, elegant, overwhelming, spellbinding and joyous. They must have been watching a different film because I thought it was horrible - a confused, depressing and disturbing mess, seemingly about parasites, pigs, mind control and orchids. I only discovered this later on when I read the plot summary on Wikipedia. I guess you could describe it as a budget version Terrence Malick - in other words dull, pretentious, ponderous and plotless. If that's your bag, go for it.
Writer, director and actor Shane Carruth follows up his admirable debut `Primer' with his new film `Upstream Color'. Carruth plays Jeff, a reformed alcoholic, who falls in love with Kris (Amy Seimetz). But this is no ordinary love story, a couple pulled together by fate and their past histories.
`Upstream Color' is dominated by Kris's story, who is kidnapped by a man who implants her with a worm. The worm renders Kris powerless, the man uses unorthodox psychological tests to manipulate her into giving up all her money and property. Then things get really strange, Kris approaches a man who helps to remove the worm inside her by connecting her to a pig. This mysterious man is central to this film, a man who documents the sounds around him, and has a pig farm. He has the ability to follow peoples lives like a shadow, as if he's an angel or a ghost. We don't know his purpose, or even if he really exists, but Kris wants to seek him out.
Kris tries to gain control of her life again after having her savings, her home and job taken from her. After many journeys on the same trains to and from their jobs, Jeff befriends the still affected and uncomfortable Kris. And thus begins their struggle to make sense of the world thats taken everything away from them, two broken souls combining their strengths and many weaknesses to find the `truth'.
`Upstream Color' is a very demanding film, tracing the patterns of life and the meaning of life itself. Purposely elusive and opaque, you'll find little resolution by the end of this disorientating film. The problem with this film is not that it doesn't make any sense, its that you don't care enough to want to join the dots. The weak link is Kris and Jeffs often frustrating and incomprehensible relationship, not helped by Carruths attempt to channel everything from poetry, history, science, nature, fate and much more through these lost souls.
`Upstream Color' is an ambitious audio-visual spectacle. Carruth is an impressive one-man film crew, who undertakes virtually every aspect of his films, which affords him complete control. The score and photography are superb, as is the editing, in fact the whole production is exquisitely conceived. Sometimes you will watch a film which baffles you, but you are still thrilled and comforted by its fantasy, however unimaginable it appears.
As beautiful as this film looks and sounds, you can't seek out what isn't there, and it doesn't enhance or enlighten your perception of the world. Ultimately, after an excellent 40 minutes, `Upstream Color' descends into so much abstraction that you are left with just a flicker of life.
on 9 March 2015
Okay, I may not be the sharpest sandwich in the tool-shed but the meaning/plot of this was totally lost on me. Something about maggots, people, pigs and some bloke doing sound recordings of bricks. More LSD vicar?
on 6 May 2013
I saw this film at the Sundance London Film Festival in April. I was unprepared for the extent to which it mystifies without a semblance of clear, or on some points any, explanation. I know from reading other reviews on Amazon.com and elsewhere that I did grasp the bare essentials on my only viewing so far but I also know that this remarkable film has a lot more to be discovered. I'll be buying it as soon as possible to explore it again and again. It's the complete opposite to the usual Hollywood movie, with little in the way of straightforward narrative (but it won't be unfamiliar territory for David Lynch fans). It's demanding, hypnotic and enthralling. Perhaps it'll deserve 5 stars after further viewing.
Added 9 Feb 2014: I've now watched it on Blu ray. I think I'll leave it at 4stars. I still think it's a fascinating film but I'd hoped that the Blu ray would have subtitles so that I'd get more insight into the film's meanings by understanding more of the dialogue. Unfortunately Metrodome, of whose releases I'm becoming very wary, don't seem to see the need to cater for the hard of hearing.
Shane Carruth is a technician of film with a vision of telling a story without plot or character. Everything is done through a multi-layered process,where imagery,sound effects, language,nature,biology are the elements that guide the film, not to forget the shaman-like presence of the Thief,who implants a parasitic worm in his victims, so he can groom them to withdraw all their savings while they perform useless tasks; and the Sampler, the priest figure who casts their demons into swine. They provide the motor- mechanism to navigate through the free-associative forms of the two leading players. Kris(Amy Seizmitz) and Jeff(Shane Carruth,writer,actor, director, producer and creator of the soundtrack) are like two elements, damaged by similar experiences of traumatic wounds,coming together into a relationship far from any rom-com. For reasons we can only creatively guess at, Thoreau’s Walden, read and transcribed and memorised,is an integral factor in this organic scheme.There’s a memorable sequence where Kris dives in to a swimming pool picking up pieces of rock, and when she surfaces quotes one of the many gnomic lines of philosophical transcendentalism.
The thing you have to accept with the film is that everything,pigs,worms and flowers,as well as normal dialogue is woven into the mesh of the film’s conceit.Everything, the surface story,is pure metaphor. Consciousness picks its way through the pebbles on the beach,the fragments of sea-wrack scattered on the shore. The players are elements placed into an experiment,seeking answers,exploring the possible future of
narrative film. This is American arthouse,learning from Cronenburg and Hal Hartley,images are in a stream-of-consciousness format,stealing your money and creeping into your soul,planting existential doubts through lyrical imagery,tactile metaphysics, burning throughout with the character’s quest for wholeness. The only criticism is that the connecting scenes are not fully explained or characterisation fully articulated, their dialogue is often muffled beneath the soundtrack,sometimes the editing leaves you perplexed. Amazing that Carruth did cinematography and distribution too. Hollywood give this man a break and a little more money for his next project.