Film review: Upstream Colour (12A)


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The Independent Culture

The film that messes with your head isn't necessarily an unpleasant experience – for sure, much of Shane Carruth's second feature, following his enigmatic debut Primer (2004), is actually quite beautiful, and with some concentration you may even make a little sense of it.

A young woman named Kris (Amy Seimetz) is targeted by a conman (Thiago Martins) who implants her with a grub that deprives her of willpower and memory; he extorts all of her money, then skedaddles. Later, Kris meets a disgraced broker (Carruth) who may have been a victim of the same scam.

The narrative proceeds by glancing indirection, offering visual rhymes and echoes whose meaning flits in and out of focus. What is the significance of the pig farmer who seems to have twigged the secret of the grub? Why is Thoreau's book Walden a recurring motif?

Carruth, who produces, writes, directs, edits, photographs and composes the score, is not a film-maker prepared to make things easy for an audience, or for himself. His elusive, elliptical style makes someone like Terrence Malick look quite straightforward – and yet just allowing yourself to go with it yields a kind of pleasure. There really isn't anything else like this, anywhere.