Stop making sense - Page 2

'Upstream Color' is a head-scratcher — but it's worth it

Carruth and Seimetz play Upstream Color's enigmatic couple.

If it hasn't already been made clear, enjoying (or even making it all the way through) Upstream Color requires patience and a willingness to forgive some of Carruth's more pretentious noodlings. (You also have to be OK with having a lot of questions left unequivocally unanswered: why is the pig farmer obsessed with making recordings? Why Walden? Aaarrrgghh!) In the tradition of experimental filmmaking, it's a work that's more concerned with evoking emotions than hitting some kind of three-act structure.

Upstream Color has been compared elsewhere to 2011's Tree of Life, in that it uses avant-garde techniques and focuses on one small story to explore Big Themes. A key difference between Carruth and Terrence Malick — whose poised-to-polarize To the Wonder also opens this week; see Dennis Harvey's review in this issue — is that Carruth is operating, as mentioned above, completely outside of Hollywood. No Ben Affleck or studio bucks here; Upstream Color was made fast and on the cheap, stars virtual unknowns, and is being self-distributed by Carruth (who, in addition to starring and directing, is also credited as writer, co-producer, cinematographer, composer, and co-editor).

There was word some years back that Carruth's follow-up to Primer would be an ambitious, medium-budgeted sci-fi epic; it was endorsed by A-listers like Steven Soderbergh. When that fell apart, the story goes, he turned to Upstream Color as his on-my-own-terms rebound project. If that back story influenced his uncompromising (for better and worse) vision for Upstream Color, it's a subtext that makes the end result even more profound; Hollywood would never take a chance on something so risky as this bold effort, which somehow manages to be both maddening and moving at the same time.


UPSTREAM COLOR opens Fri/12 at the Roxie.

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