Sunday, April 28, 2013


 By Chuck Graham,

Shane Carruth (“Primer”) is an extremely independent filmmaker with an intense following of equally independent film followers – those people with no time for the simplistic mongering of basic emotions by the cynical major film studios turning out all those big box office attractions.

You know who you are.

“Upstream Color,” now playing at the Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd., is Carruth’s second film, equally abstract and open to a wide range of interpretations.

As writer/director/composer/co-star and co-editor, Carruth doesn’t need to explain his motives to anyone. Joining him are two actors playing characters with titles for names, the Thief (Thiago Martins) and The Sampler (Andrew Sensenig).

Joining Jeff (Carruth) as co- star is Kris (Amy Seimetz), although Kris gets the lion’s share of lines. She becomes kind of the ping-pong ball being knocked back and forth among these men as the game dictates.

With a rich philosophical pallet of symbols, totems and metaphors, “Upstream Colors” encourages imaginative interpretations. My personal take (which is still being formulated as we speak) is to compare these messages to those in “The Matrix” -- but without the movie stars and big budget special effects.

Mind control is the heart of the matter. Carruth the writer thinks of society as one big laboratory experiment, with coldly calculating scientists infecting a few humans with tiny “thought receivers” in the form of little white worms.

Once these little worms have absorbed the personalities of their hosts, the worms are removed and put into various pigs being raised as another part of the experiment. The scientists are then free to observe the pigs as if they were human society, which they are in the mental sense because they now express the same emotional responses.

But then, as the scientists train the pigs to express more desirable reactions, the worms in the pigs begin controlling the habits of the people who were once the worms’ human hosts.

So we watch as Kris, the most troubled human, keeps trying to find out what is wrong with her, while Jeff, the Thief and the Sampler have their own agendas to pursue.

None of this is expressed directly. Everything is implied. Carruth as director maintains a gentle pace so there is time to ruminate and reason a bit as developments go by. However the editing, done with co-editor David Lowery, loves to go jumping about.

This is probably intended to be disorienting, which it certainly is. But the confusion will add pleasurable opportunity to those cineastes that enjoy sorting out all the conflicting elements of any film.

The acting and cinematography in “Upstream Color” are quite good. This picture is several cuts above those low-budget indie sketches done with oodles of heart but only minimalist techniques.

So get into the proper frame of mind before buying your ticket, settle back in that Loft seat with some extra coffee, chocolate, wine, etc, and let the thinking begin.

No comments: