Saturday, July 20, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Upstream Color (2013) ***½

NR, 96 min.
Director/Writer: Shane Carruth
Starring: Amy Seimetz, Shane Carruth, Andrew Sensenig, Thaigo Martins

I’m going to describe the plot of “Upstream Color” and you’re going to get an idea of what type of movie this is, and you’re going to be totally wrong.

Shane Carruth’s directorial follow-up to his brilliant ultra low budget time travel film “Primer” is another surprise in independent science fiction. “Upstream Color” is about a drug that is developed by a thief that allows him to take control of other people’s actions. He abducts them and administers his drug. Then he has them empty all their bank accounts in such a way so as not to arise suspicion. He controls them for a long period of time and then leaves them to the repercussions of their interrupted lives.

Like his brilliant “Primer”, Carruth isn’t as interested in the science of his fiction as much as he’s interested in the human repercussions. The movie follows one of the victims, a woman who seems to hold a good position in a design firm. After her abduction, she loses everything. The thief didn’t just take her money, but her life. Her disappearance costs her her job. The after effects of the drug cost her some of her sanity, and she must now live with a job in a print shop and a fairly isolated existence due to her mistrust of herself as well as others.

She meets a man who seems to have the same detachment from society. It is eventually revealed that he had a similar experience to hers. Neither actually knows what happened to them, but he was also involved in the loss of a great deal of money and a period of time that was lost to him. They develop a relationship, not just because they can relate to each other, but something about the process they went through has created a bond between them.

We also meet a man who is a sound engineer. He uses sound to draw the victims of these abductions to him. He helps them recover in a process that involves removing a parasite from their bodies and placing it into the body of a pig. He keeps all the pigs of the victims. Eventually, he notices two of his pigs are spending all their time together.

“Upstream Color” is one of those movies that doesn’t spell everything out. It barely spells anything out. Carruth leaves his odd ideas for the audience to figure out. In doing so he sculpts an incredibly interesting study in relationships and human behavior. To what end? I’m not sure, but he approaches his material with such fascination it’s impossible not to be enveloped by it.

No comments: