Wednesday, 11 February 2015

DVD Review: Upstream Colour

Snatch's hilariously terrifying gangster, Bricktop, once said "be wary of any man who keeps a pig farm" and if Upstream Colour is anything to go by Bricktop couldn't be more right. While director Shane Carruth doesn't have his pigs biting through bone like butter, their presence is an ominous reminder of the horrific truth behind exactly what is going on.  

Upstream Colour follows the lives of Kris (Amy Seimetz) and Jeff (Shane Carruth) who are brought together by the same bizarre and gruesome experience after being spiked with a mysterious mind-controlling drug. What unravels is a beautiful, non-linear story that is one part David Lynch, two part Terrence Mallick with a dash of David Cronenberg. Yet the film escapes genre classification, while it has a bit of science fiction about it and horror elements, its difficult to pigeon hole Carruth's efforts. 

Carruth, the one man film making machine, broke into independent cinema with his ultra low budget science fiction, head-bendingly brilliant Primer. For his debut, the director basically did everything from acting to casting to composing and produced one of the greatest science fiction films of the last few decades. Second time around nothing has changed, Carruth takes charge of everything from directing to being the camera and electrical department.  

At times the film feels like a collection of beautifully shot frames rather then a coherent narrative but as the film comes to it's slow building conclusion, Carruth ties up all loose ends making the final film a masterpiece of non-linear narrative storytelling. While the narrative is a masterstroke, the characters aren't as lucky. The central couple, Kris and Jeff, are the victims of the film's timeline jumping which makes the relationship feel poorly paced and unbelievable. 

Follow ups to successful debut films are notriously difficult to pull off, just ask Richard Kelly but Carruth has managed to pull it out of the bag. While Upstream Colour is not on the same intellectual level as the director's debut but like Primer, it is a unique slice of cinema that you will struggle to find anywhere else. Upstream Colour will not please everyone's pallet but if you are willing to let your mind be tested, Carruth's follow up will do just that.     


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