This “review” was first written for/in Personal-View
I loved Primer, what a great, well done low budget sci-fi flick!!!
In Upstream Color there’s undeniably a HUGE amount of work too. IMO its peculiar structure resembles a music composition where Shane Carruth’s intricate inner universes unfold sometimes giving birth to a micro-narrative movement, sometimes more into a drift-like impro. So in a way is more like listening. To me, what gives cohesion (and coherence) to the whole is that Shane’s just follows his own rules/directions… maybe also his weaknesses. Does it make him free? Does it make Upstream Color a better motion picture?
It is pretty obvious Carruth has a deep knowledge of the the cinema métier, a fine tuned sensitivity and that he believes in what he’s doing. Which takes me to the incredible merit of being able to make it (writing, producing, directing, acting, co-editing, scoring, etc) and putting it out (also distributing it).
I think you can learn A LOT watching (and listening) to Upstream Color. There are fabulous scenes where mise en scène (I do love this word), frame, color (sometimes the absence of it), cadence, action and sound are one… indivisible… that’s something quite good, to put it childishly. There are other decisions though that hijack me away from… the action, the experience: the abusive use of shallow DOF – which instead of helping keep the focus, completely looses me – the masturFlaring thing, the repetition of shots and POVs, the differences in grading, the sometimes gloomy and cold and desperate and heavy weather moods, the rhythm hyper-slowdowns with, apparently, no purpose, etc.
The puzzling narrative (actually plenty linear and self absorbed) is ok, nothing cutting edge or going too deep (I guess that’s the sacrifice for such a… “personal view” shifting option ;P) which is absolutely nothing bad. Strangely the fragmented story is not very appealing to me and it felt more interesting closer to the characters (Kris’ working charm) – and here I must say its silences are “atmospherically nurturing” not burdens and that’s not easy to do fellas.
So Shane Carruth is someone who may become a great director; I can think of a poor Kubrick, a rol-game addict Sokurov (not quite Tarkovsky) or even Rashomon‘s Kurosawa on valium; here delivers a more than recommendable experience. Now in a few years, when I watch Upstream Color again I’ll see if, like Primer, ages well.
Clicking above image takes you a poster size one. Clicking sound above or here >> you can hear Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color original score