Tripping: Selections from ND/NF: Upstream Color dir. by Shane Carruth



Shane Carruth  (USA)

“They could be starlets” is repeated as if a poem, finding a transcendent moment in an otherwise creepy story.

Upstream Color is very much part of a shift to post-2012 in how it breaks into a sci-fi reality most have never considered. Does it have an ethos? Does it need one? Is it just an experiment?

Amy Seimentz is our Juliette Binoche, naked in her role throughout, as her character is drug-raped and then made to go through a series of training experiments, only to give away her money and identity as she knew it. As drugged Kris, she is also not unlike Edie Sedgewick, who gradually re-emerges as an empowered Kris. Carruth as the director/actor/everyman here works, but I am also conscious of him as the actor in the lead role. It makes it harder to get swept up in his character, but Seimentz’s Kris sweeps you up plenty.

A review by way of a riff:

We have the potential for soul mates.

Love is re-orientation.

Emotional/biological lives may entwine in the form of swine.

Hands can penetrate another reality.

There is a wholistic reality and a skewed one.

There may be wormholes under your skin.

Things naturally move upstream.

Human nature revisits itself.

Carruth’s use of Thoreau’s Walden as a device makes for coincidences.

As a director, Caruth says he was “tripping” on Walden.

The characters are tripping on Walden, as they are busy re-humanizing/re-integrating/recalibrating their disorientation.  Carruth says  he is interested in “personal narrative removes”  and what that does to the characters. The characters have to process their reality constantly.

There is a blue to yellow revelation.

Production value/design is styled to match the currents in each section of the film.

Carruth often chooses microscopic views that show  just what is in the frame.

Carruth does it all, sound recording, mixing and re-mixing and recreating natural sound.

There is a constant and consistent micro/macro level to the unfolding of the storyline, and this is one of the tropes that really works, along with the thing  that makes its way under Kris’s skin.

I am quite moved by my own disorientation and queasiness, as if we all have to reset ourselves to move forward in the new multi-layered dimensions of our time on earth as we know it. It got beneath my skin.  I want to spend more time with Carruth, Thoreau, and what might be starlets.


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