Fanboy Flick Pick: Upstream Color Is A Strange but Not Inscrutable Trip

By Luke Y. Thompson in Movies
Friday, April 12, 2013 at 10:00 am

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Shane Carruth is one of those names you kinda have to be super-nerdy to know. Prior to Upstream Color, he made one feature, called Primer, lauded by many who saw it as the best time-travel movie ever made.

I was not one of those doing the lauding - watching Primer felt like when you're a kid and some fancy-ass grownup used big words around you to prove they're smart. Carruth probably worked things out incredibly well, but by deliberately not explaining to the viewer what was happening, it gave the thing more of an illusion of complexity than a sense that it was actually complicated. I don't need every detail spelled out, but don't deliberately withhold and then tell me I'm not smart enough to get it. Or, I mean, do it if you want. I just won't give you a rave review.



My friend Rian Johnson, however, loved it so much he got Carruth to help him with the time-travel logic in Looper, which is a much better film. And thus, I figured when Carruth's long-anticipated second film finally opened, it would be geeky enough that I could write about it here.

I'm not sure if I was right or not. It's that kind of movie. This I do know - as abstract and surreal as it is, I like it about a million times more than Primer. Besides, there's nothing else remotely geeky opening this week - what am I gonna do, recommend 42? Anyone saying Scary Movie 5 needs to sit back down and keep drinking.

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I'll try to summarize at least the beginnings of the plot as best I can. There's this guy (Thiago Martins) digging in his garden for grubs, looking to find the perfect one, which he then puts inside a pill that he gives to a woman named Kris (Amy Seimetz) at a club. She chokes on the wormy thing, goes unconscious and he kidnaps and hypnotizes her. After several exercises in control, he convinces her to basically give him all her money, and then she wakes up back at home, but with multiple worms clearly wriggling under her skin.

She loses her job working on a movie, takes one at a sign company, and goes to see a weird-ass healer who's also a sound recordist. He removes the worms from her in a bizarre ritual involving live piglets.

Then she meets a guy on the train into work: Jeff, played by Carruth himself. Jeff hits on her, they go on a date, she reveals she's on meds for something serious, while he reveals he's a divorced former drug addict who's been lying about his job. Time passes uncertainly: they get married, they start confusing their own youthful memories, she has crazy episodes and can't remember a cancer she supposedly had. Meanwhile, the healer guy and the pig farm keep reappearing, most oddly during a sex scene. Metaphor, or just literal weirdness? Maybe.


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