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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Film: Upstream Color

A small spoiler free "poster" I created to go along with the writeup, featuring the movie's key characters

I think I'll open up this post by providing a link where you can purchase this film, and merchandise related to it:

Please do by the way. At the very least I will buy the Blu Ray DVD to support Shane Carruth's brilliant film-making endeavors, but I could definitely go for that all inclusive package that comes with the soundtrack (also excellent) on vinyl, some posters, and a copy of the classic work "Walden" by Henry David Thoreau. Naturally that last one will make the most sense after you've seen the film.

Well, where do I start? A couple of years ago I watched "Primer," which would be Shane Carruth's first film. Its thoughtfulness was only outdone by its mind-bending plot device - seriously go watch that movie too - and perhaps its biggest downfall was that it had too technical of a story for most people to enjoy, possibly causing more confusion than entertainment. The plot can be worked out and has been done by various places on the web. It was overall a piece that I enjoyed, but mostly it paved an interest in Carruth's future work. Just a few days ago I saw "Upstream Color" and I can say without a doubt that this film has jumped into position as one of my all time favorites, and has led me to believe that Shane will be carving a new path for film-makers yet to come. Despite my desire to analyze everything the first time, I allowed myself the opportunity to simply drink in the entirety of the movie, letting the puzzle reveal itself, and only on the second and subsequent viewings would I begin to pick away at its mysteries, of which there are many. To be completely honest though, the film didn't give me much of a chance to analyze everything the first go around.

"Upstream Color" is exactly the kind of movie where the less one says, the better the reward is in the end. All of this makes it particularly difficult to write an opinion piece, but I think too highly of it to not make some small waves right here on this blog. To that end, I suppose what makes this movie so intrinsically valuable to me is how much it takes advantage of its advantages. I'm no doubt positive every single person reading this right now has heard someone say some permutation of this: The book was way better than the movie! Well that's fine, but not altogether fair. You see, books are an entirely different medium, and I'd be willing to bet that more often than not, a film-maker does not change the book because he/she has a secret sneaky agenda to make you upset whilst making him/herself boatloads of money in bags with "$" printed on it, like a 19th century bandit. Different mediums have different strengths and different ways of telling stories. I love movies and more specifically I love how movies can tell a story. Imagine a twisting narrative that jumps back and forth in time, let's say between 3 different time periods: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. It sounds easy enough to write about in a book, just write it. But imagine how that plays out in a film. We could cut between scenes without delay, flashing images that provide key details and quickly return from whence we came. If you wrote three sentences in a book that took place at three different times, it'd be entirely plausible, but would probably become a tiresome read extremely quickly due to the confusion factor. This is likely why you'll find that books are divided respectively into: sections, chapters and parts. It's much easier to switch a point of view after having completely given a different one, and conversely, much as it would be befuddling to change tense mid sentence, so to would it be to switch focus or POV within one as well.

This all comes up because "Upstream Color" is precisely that kind of film. The one in which the viewer is rewarded for viewing. It takes advantage of what makes films an enjoyable medium, and it supports that charge with a gripping plot, terrific direction, and a finely crafted soundtrack all of which only make you want to hit to play once more as soon as the credits roll. I know I don't have to say it with all the pimping I've already done for it, but I absolutely love this film. For what it's worth, I highly recommend it.


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