UPSTREAM COLOUR (Shane Curruth, 2013)

upstream colour

Starring: Amy Seimetz, Shane Curruth, Frank Mosley

Genre: Drama/ Pretentious nonsense

A man, known as ‘the thief’ (Thiago Martins) empties the contents of a plastic cased drug and inserts a maggot/worm into it. He then manages to sedate and force Kris (Seimetz) to take this drug and she then enters an almost hypnotised state in which she gives away pretty much everything she owns and drinks a lot of a mystery drink. After the organism living inside Kris is removed she then loses her job and pretty much has her life destroyed. Kris then meets Jeff (Curruth), the two seem to be identically troubled souls and they get together.  Together they encounter well, stuff and the book Walden by Henry David Thoreau never seems to be far away. Meanwhile there is a man who keeps a lot of piglets and a man who records sounds of nature who both keep on turning up.

Sorry if that is less than helpful, but I could have gone into more detail with the synopsis or just said “random stuff happens” as it would have actually made no difference. Upstream Colour is one of those films that are a nightmare to review as it is so unique and the viewing experience is so unique to every single viewer. I apologise if what I write here may not seem particularly useful to those of you that have not seen Upstream Colour, but it is such a hard viewing experience to describe.

One thing is for sure, and that is that as writer/ director/ producer/ editor/ composer and lead actor, Shane Curruth not only brings a completely new notion to the concept of ‘auteur’, but as random as the narrative may seem to us, it is most definitely not to him and indeed very deliberate. One thing I have to say from the off is that his score complements the visuals extremely well and only enhances the atmosphere.

Anyone who has heard anything about Upstream Colour will be aware of its slightly random narrative, and I am not even going to attempt to dissect it and come up with some kind of theory. All I know is that it is a somewhat strange and beautiful work that I found truly gripped me for the entirety of its 97 minutes, even if I am not sure why. I absolutely loved Primer, and though I would argue Upstream Colour is not as good as that, it is still a fine and memorable follow up from a truly individual filmmaker who genuinely knows his own mind (even if some of us have not got the foggiest what is going on).

The book Walden by transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau is almost a character itself throughout the narrative and perhaps reading that will shed a new light into Curruth’s mindset and vision. If you look hard enough at nature you will find extremely fragile patterns, and there in my view may lie some of the deeper meanings behind the very cryptic narrative clues of Curruth’s film. The conflicting character of nature and humanity (as well as pigs) and their seemingly fragile relationship seem to play a major role, and though each viewer will take away different thoughts and ideas, I found there to be some truly unforgettable imagery.

Of course many will find frustration and alienation from Curruth’s unique approach and this is a film that requires effort. However I have learnt not to take it personally if I do not quite get every little metaphor, and was just happy to be sucked in by the often beautiful and strangely poetic imagery of Upstream Colour. I would say to just let the stream take you away and not fight it, but that would be a horrific pun! Of course it is all open to interpretation, but for anyone who respects bold and beautiful filmmaking, then I would strongly recommend to them the unique and unforgettable Upstream Colour.

While some will find transcendental visual beauty and others will find pretentious frustration in Curruth’s vision, I found that Upstream Colour sucks you in to its unique complex atmosphere and is one of 2013s most strangely rewarding experiences.


Upstream Colour featured in my top 10 film scores of 2013, to see that top 10 click here

About MoodyB

An extremely passionate and (semi) opened minded film reviewer, with a hint of snobbish.
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6 Responses to UPSTREAM COLOUR (Shane Curruth, 2013)

  1. thycriticman says:

    Heard quite a bit about this, and that it transcends genres. It does seem like one of those films where the style and scenery make it worth the watch. Well written review.

    • MoodyB says:

      Thank you. I cannot claim to necessarily understand what everything means but I would certainly recommend it as it is extremely well shot and beautifully scored, to creative a unique and memorable atmosphere.

  2. jjames36 says:

    This film is quite good, just a bit below excellent. Probably in my top fifteen for the year out of the 150 ish 2013 movies I’ve seen.

    Great review. I quite agree.

  3. CMrok93 says:

    Didn’t expect this one to move me as much as it did, but somehow, it did and took me for a huge ride while it was at it. A lot better than Primer, but I know that I’m in the minority with that thought. Good review.

    • MoodyB says:

      I completely agree, I am happy to confess I never fully understood what was happening but yet I did find it moving and always engaging with a great atmosphere.

      I only just prefer Primer, I think that may be partly down to that the concept was a little more universal and so easier to follow. Repeat viewings of Upstream Colour may well change my opinion however.

  4. mistylayne says:

    Never heard of this but it sounds absolutely delightful. I’ll have to add it to my list.

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