Sinking Into the World of ‘Upstream Color’ With Director Shane Carruth – Movies – BlackBook

I love narrative and how it exists and why it exists and how it’s meant to be used. You can come up with a paragraph full of some truth, something that’s universal, some exploration, and it can be really informative, but it’s likely to not be that interesting. But you can spin a story, you can tell a narrative, and you can infuse it with this stuff, and if you’ve done your job right, you haven’t just captured somebody’s attention long enough to take them on this journey, you’ve also figured out something about the exploration through the act of the story.

Says the guy who made one of the most interesting movies I’ve seen this year.

Sinking Into the World of ‘Upstream Color’ With Director Shane Carruth – Movies – BlackBook

Cinema du WTF – UPSTREAM COLOR (Shane Carruth 2013) – Bright Lights After Dark.

Even at its most obscure, Upstream Color keeps the viewer involved thanks to the aforesaid music score and the flow of its nature-derived imagery – sunlight, water, animals, insects, and birds (see still at top of page) and the archetypal blue flower motif. The consistent beauty of the imagery gives the movie the feel of poetry:

O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm: Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

(“The Sick Rose” by William Blake.)

I can’t seem to stop reading about this movie since I watched it a few weeks ago. That blue flower connection is a good find.

Upstream Color

Upstream Color. The speculative hook is a strange cycle of events driven by some sort of parasite, I guess. A microbe that seems to enhance empathy or connection in all of its hosts. And you can interpret the rest in about seven million ways. I’m thinking: identity and self-construction. The first half-hour or so, with the thief, is just perfectly tense. Interesting that the personal resolution at the end of the story is misplaced justice. We don’t always know better. Oh, and there’s one scene, when the heroine is waking up, where the image and sound are so well-executed you kinda want to yawn and stretch, too. I didn’t like this one as much as Primer, but I will continue to support and hold out hope for more good, weird movies. Shane Carruth knows his stuff.

It’s basically recursion. You start with a problem that spits out an answer. You feed the answer back into the problem and get another answer, which you put right back into the problem.

Shane Carruth talking about nonlinear dynamics and maybe the creative process? And though he said this 9 years ago, this is also relevant to Upstream Color.

I called around and managed to get a lot of expired stock donated. I also used tungsten-based 35mm slide film to storyboard the movie – this really helped me show the various labs what the final film would look like and thus negotiate prices with them. They are much more likely to give you a discount when they think you’re someone that might be back one day with a bigger budget.

Shane Carruth. Clever! Prepare like a professional, get professional treatment.

It really got to me when someone asks what I did for a living and I realized I didn’t have a good answer. And it was just, I don’t know, it was like I’m in my apartment alone all day editing this thing that I’m calling a film but it wasn’t actually a film yet. So yeah, there’s a couple of times where I just gave up and decided I was going to go back and get a job and actually have a good answer to what I did for a living. That was going to be that.


Primer. It was early on in the film when I stopped trying to understand the technical details. Just let it ride for now and watch it again soon. Very cool movie. There’s a fine line in (many genres but especially in) science fiction where budgets force decisions about how you show crazy things. I love seeing the conservative work-arounds. You reduce the spectacle so you can preserve the speculative heart of the thing. This not all science fiction, though. There’s a good human core about invention, entrepreneurship, risk, paranoia, trust, etc. Looking forward to seeing Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color this week.