film: upstream colour

…a trimmed ‘Stache review

Once again, Shane Carruth manages to mindf*ck us all. UPSTREAM COLOR is his follow up from acclaimed PRIMER, and definitely lives up to expectations.

Carruth’s method to filmmaking is one of a tinkerer, to which he does so to perfection. His use of sound, in particular, is where this is most evident. For your first viewing experience, I suggest you lock yourself away in the quietest room in your house and just ride the film’s flow.

You’ll watch this movie a few times, then again, and then after about the fifth watch you’ll want to know where your pig is.

8.5 out of 10 don’t blink or you’ll miss it 'Staches

116) Upstream Color (2013)

A man and woman are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism. Identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives.

9/10 - From the creative mind of Shane Carruth who brought us the excellent Primer, Upstream Colour is another adventure off into hypnotic abstract weirdness. Understandably this film divided opinion, people that don’t like it fall into a category of being “too stupid to understand it” and those that did are accused of being indie-film loving hipsters. It won’t please everyone, but if you wait until the end of the film before making a judgement of “this is shit”, because once the puzzle is pieced together, the film is something oddly incredible. 

Upstream Color (2013) Dir. Shane Carruth


I wrote my review of this film on a piece of paper, the recycled one with bits in it and I used a fine tip pen and handwriting that was pretty eligible to anyone else but to myself. With the review finished I tore the paper up in three separate pieces - I swallowed one third whole, waited an hour for a gust and let the wind take another and buried one deep in the woods next to the most imposing tree. Next week I’m going to the theatre to see the film again.

FILM 2013: #87. Upstream Colour

Writer/director/producer/composer/editor/star/etc. Shane Carruth’s follow-up to debut brainmelter Primer is comparatively straightforward, but that still ranks it in the top percentile of weird. You may not understand the meaning or reasoning behind it, but at least you have a handle on what’s going on (just about). At first though, my concern was how I was going to get through it at all - we are introduced to a pro/antagonist with a voice so mumblesome its barely coherent. The fast cuts, with scenes and sequences lasting mere seconds, stripping everything to its strict essentials, is disorientating, like a flash-card narrative. The atmosphere is unbearably tense and discomforting. And even the least squeamish person out there will find some moments squirm-inducing.

But this is all thankfully just the opening, to establish the movie proper, and once it gets all past that, it clicks into the heart of the matter - something like a relationship drama played against a mystery that dallies in Cronenbergian body horror, with a hint of Side Effects perhaps, but has a look and feel all of its own. The central relationship feels believable, though it’s overall a chilly experience and lacking in displays of emotion (any warm fuzzy feelings come from cute little piggies that play a part in the strange goings-on), but it slowly sucks you in and I was surprised how much I eventually came to care about the characters. A slow burn, one to admire more than outright love maybe, but there’s little else like it.

Top 7 Films of 2013

7. No (Dir. Pablo Larrain)

From the accurate mise-en-scene and the video cassette 4:3 choice of filming, you are planted into history - into an archive and the archive comes alive with passion, heart and with a silver tongue of advertising. It is brilliantly cast, superbly paced and gets that balance between information and creative engagement perfect. 

6. Upstream Color (Dir. Shane Carruth)

I wrote my review of this film on a piece of paper, the recycled one with bits in it and I used a fine tip pen and handwriting that was pretty eligible to anyone else but to myself. With the review finished I tore the paper up in three separate pieces - I swallowed one third whole, waited an hour for a gust and let the wind take another and buried one deep in the woods next to the most imposing tree.

5. La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty) (Dir. Paolo Sorrentino )

The realisation of a life looking and experiencing modern high class  culture of the successful flánuer is relished and indulged with this banquet of cinematic delicacies and narrative spirits that only Sorrentino can produce. 

4. Pacific Rim (Dir. Guillermo Del Toro)

In a time when we, especially the indie lovers and art house crowd, are so cynical about CGI blockbusters, it’s refreshing to see a film on the big screen that struck through questions of logic and ‘artistic worth’ and has you embracing the clunks and squelches of robots and monsters, whilst tickling your imagination relentlessly.

3. The Act of Killing(Dir. Joshua Oppenheimer)

A documentary like no other, Joshua Oppenheimer disguises his camera with the lights of movie ego and coaxes these monsters to appear authentic and chilling with the acceptance of their own history, a history of genocide. But like the power of cinema only can, there are moments where the moving image flickers back at them and years sitting without guilt does eventually creep up - and the results are one of the most haunting and profound films of our time.

2. Gangs of Wasseypur (Part 1 & 2) (Dir. Anurag Kashyap)

Bang in the middle of biting Western indie crime films and rich Bollywood extravagance, Gangs of Wasseypur is an absolute master-stroke. It is brutal, bright and squeezes every genre into its full 5 ½ runtime possible that by the end of it you are overwhelmed through every one of your senses. It’ll feel like you’ve sat through The GodfatherGone with the WindOnce Upon a Time in America and Pulp Fiction all running side by side - the remarkable thing is, you are engaged and engrossed in every second.

1. Gravity (Dir. Alfonso Cuarón)

Crashing to the UK in a blaze of festival and American hype for being a ‘masterpiece’ and smashing box office records, before you see the film you wonder that you already are going to fall head over heels for it with the press. But once you sit down in that cinema, put on your 3D glasses, see the title roar up on screen and open with this astonishingly striking sequence - you forget the real world ever existed and for 91 minutes you will only care and feel about what your retinas take in. The camera moves every way possible and every inch of the screen, every cut and every note on the score is incredibly fined tuned with finesse and elegance - it reverberates through each one of your senses like no other film, absorbing you into the frame.  It brings you to engage with the narrative on such a revolutionary technical level is to be as admired in our time as Citizen Kane was when it was released. 

This is the greatest example of this early genre of immersion cinema, where films in our cinema now can not just transport your soul and mind to another world, or tear open reality to explore - but here we have a film that transports you physically to its space. There is no point in seeing Gravity on a screen that is any smaller than one that you can walk right into, because that is exactly what happens when viewing it. 

Full list 1-20

1. Gravity

2. Gangs of Wasseypur

3. The Act of Killing

4. Pacific Rim

5. La Grand Bellezza (The Great Beauty)

6. Upstream Colour

7. No

8. The Stuart Hall Project

9. Frances Ha

10. Leviathan

11. Mud

12. Beyond the Hills

13. The Selfish Giant

14. Like Someone in Love

15. Cutie and the Boxer

16. Prince Avalanche

17. Stoker

18. In a World…

19. Pain & Gain

20. Neighbouring Sounds


Guy who made Primer finally made a second film. And it’s out this weekend (in Ireland/UK)