Shane Carruth‘s Upstream Color is the only Sundance film I’ve seen thus far that totally jettisons narrative in favor of an impressionist, oddly spooky, catch-as-catch-can paint-splatter whatever experience. It’s very cool and commanding and climatorial. I became an instant fan. You’re free to piece together all the fragments and good luck with that, but Upstream Color has something to do with 21st Century anxiety, malevolent micro-manipulation, love, bodily invasions, Ridley Scott-like worms and definitely pigs. Lots and lots of little pigs.
You don’t want to hear what I think it all amounts to. Whatever I might write would just get in the way or feel like a mosquito. It’s entirely between you and Upstream Color.
Director-writer-producer Carruth is self-distributing Upstream Color on April 5th. HE readers are advised to grapple with the experience. All serious cineastes, I mean. I honestly don’t think you’ll be able to call yourself a man if you don’t.
It’s certainly worth catching for Amy Seimetz‘s mesmerizing lead performance. And Carruth’s costarring one, come to think. They play lovers (named Chris and Jeff) who may have been invaded/afflicted by the same William S. Burroughs-ian bad guys, and Carruth is cool — a fascinating actor in that he doesn’t seem to “act” much but is indisputably interesting. His intense eyes especially. But Semetz (an indie actress-director who strongly resembles early Juliette Binoche) is the shit. She’s the primary victim, the person who struggles with weird micro-aggression and malevolence that makes no real “sense,” who tries to hold on, who bears the burden and somehow muddles through. Seimetz has been around for years, but this is the first time I’ve sat up and said “wow.”
(I was amazed, incidentally, that a publicist actually disputed my impression that Seimetz resembles Binoche as she looked when she made Louis Malle‘s Damage, only with lighter hair.)
I was told last night by a publicist that Carruth is in Park City but isn’t doing Sundance interviews, only interviews geared to the 4.5 release. “He’s not approachable at all?,” I asked. Oh, he’s around, she said, but he’s avoiding the spotlight and hanging with old friends. A friend/colleague of the publicist suggested Carruth was following the reclusive Terrence Malick playbook. “Oh, I get it,” I said. “He’s one of those. A mysterian, an artful dodger.” I asked if Carruth risks going to restaurants and ordering the occasional hamburger or salad. Does he have a driver’s license, or is that too much of an exposure, giving his personal information to “them”? Who are the 2013 brain police? Are they watching me also?
An hour later I tweeted the following: “J.D. Salinger, Glenn Gould, Thomas Pynchon, Terrence Malick…Shane Carruth!”