Review this movie
Apr 30, 2013Almost a decade ago, Shane Carruth created "Primer," a low-budget sci-fi flick that developed a cult following for its complex ambiguity. This new one has a better quality look, arty even. It's edited with short cuts to keep it moving. But…the plot is totally obtuse. A man and woman have been part of some kind of enigmatic experiment involving a worm. There's also a guy who walks aroundAlmost a decade ago, Shane Carruth created "Primer," a low-budget sci-fi flick that developed a cult following for its complex ambiguity. This new one has a better quality look, arty even. It's edited with short cuts to keep it moving. But…the plot is totally obtuse. A man and woman have been part of some kind of enigmatic experiment involving a worm. There's also a guy who walks around recording sounds and tending to pigs. And "Walden." If you like to feel hip and love to dig deep for meaning, you're liable to find it perfect. Otherwise, there's lots of interesting imagery with no easy payoff.… Expand
Mar 24, 2015If you found Shane Carruth's first film, Primer, a tough watch prepare to be completely bamboozled by his second feature. The plot is...well unexplainable! It involves strange maggots, operations on pigs, hypnotic states and an unorthodox love affair. For most this will induce frustration and confusion and many aren't going to make it to the end, others will delight in its offbeat,If you found Shane Carruth's first film, Primer, a tough watch prepare to be completely bamboozled by his second feature. The plot is...well unexplainable! It involves strange maggots, operations on pigs, hypnotic states and an unorthodox love affair. For most this will induce frustration and confusion and many aren't going to make it to the end, others will delight in its offbeat, hallucinatory structure. There is no doubt cart is a filmmaker of talent but if he gets any more obtuse he risks disappearing up his own arthouse orifice.… Expand
Oct 12, 2016This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Warning, this review will be very critical so read at your own discretion.
Upstream Color, kind of falsely classified as a Science Fiction, is a fantasy drama about two people affected by a mysterious blue substance which allows them to be manipulated in a trance like state. They are fed a ringworm which leeches of the consciousness of its human hosts. The victims are manipulated into handing over their valuables.
The mastermind behind all this is called "The Thief". There's an interloper though: a person called "The Sampler". He figured out how to manipulate these people as well, and does so for his own pleasure.
At a higher level this movie addresses free will, connectivity with each other and nature. It's about two people who try to better themselves. At tangible level you won't receive any answers. It's unknown what the blue substance is, which transforms the worm into a conscious-leeching insect. It's unknown how The Thief got hold on that knowledge, it's unclear how both The Thief and The Sampler control the minds of the infected people. It's unclear what The Samplers motivation is to aimlessly play with his victims. Again, at metaphysical level I could think of a few reasons, but metaphysics is not what I'm questioning. Not providing any of these answers in the slightest is cheap in my book. Especially when the director tags it as "Science Fiction" he's misinforming his crowd.
At deeper level, things do make sense to me. I understand the metaphor of the conscious leeching worm (see Spider Wasp for a good example). The pigs and their piglets, as connectors for our protagonists to behave like distressed parents when the piglets are murdered. I recognize the life cycle from water to plant to mammals to death to water again. Rinse and repeat and the mysterious blue substance is a vessel for that cycle. And I do recognize The Sampler for what he is: a binding entity between all the elements, spiritual and natural. And I do understand that our protagonists are bettering themselves by freeing themselves from their antagonists.
This movie, though unnecessarily slow, could have been very watchable for more viewers if only it would have been executed decently. The beer budget of $50,000 is not it. Even on that budget Shane Caruth (yes, him) could have purchased a few camera stabilizers. He didn't, so we're stuck with shaky-cam footage; very annoying and for me largely unwatchable, mostly because I simply don't want to. Then there are the cuts: supposedly artistic, but I rather call it frantic. For example too much zooming-in (along with shaking), cutting halfway through objects, and the usual cliché art-house pretentiousness.
Shane Caruth himself didn't improve on his acting since Primer either: it's the way he talks. Doesn't finish sentences, stops halfway and then restarts, lots of "uh", "ah" - which is his trademark by now I'm sure - and then finally he finishes the sentence (or simply doesn't). This is what art students do with their iPhone. It doesn't belong in a movie I'm supposed to pay for.
So there's that. The shaky-cam and idiotic zooming is the worst culprit of them all. In Primer, Shane Caruth admittedly made things artificially more complex by adding unclear origins of some parallel dimensions and by introducing a red herring. Now in this movie things are made more complex because of a technical awkward implementation. The sloth of the movie becomes a challenge too as implied earlier. It wasn't implemented artsy at all: we were staring at things for too long and too many dialogs were moot.
I simply can't recommend this movie to anyone unless you're a freak like me. Hence the rating of 4 out of 10, meaning it needs two full notches before it becomes decent to look at. Story wise it's nice though, but it won't save the movie. Not to me that is.… Expand
Awards & Rankings
It is invigoratingly freaky and strange, with a Death-Valley-dry sense of humour somewhere underneath — though a little derivative sometimes. More than once, Carruth gives us a close-up on a hand ruminatively stroking a surface: very Malick. And the shots of creepy creatures swarming under the skin are very Cronenberg.
If you’ve ever sat at your desk wondering whether there’s more to life, or been kept awake by an insidious hum in the darkness, this will speak to your soul – even as its enveloping, disturbing, uplifting story sends your mind reeling with giddy possibilities.
How to sum up? You have to make synapse-spark connections, interpret events to your own satisfaction, pick up visual cues (a long stretch of the film is dialogue-free) and be happy with not knowing all the answers (you know, like in life — but not in most motion pictures). A perfectly judged, strikingly beautiful film, but also a lunatic enterprise which invites — even welcomes — befuddlement as much as wonder. A true original.