|Site locale: United States||
Best Blu-ray Deals
Best Blu-ray Deals, See All the Deals »
Top deals |
Unconventional drama directed by and starring Shane Caruth. When Kris (Amy Seimetz), a graphics designer, is unfortunate enough to find herself the subject of the attentions of a thief (Thiago Martins) who employs somewhat unusual methods, her life rapidly goes downhill. In order to get her to transfer her savings to him, the thief implants a parasitic organism into Kris then leaves her to the equally unfavourable attentions of a pig farmer, who transfuses the parasite from Kris into a pig, creating a subliminal connection between the woman and animal. Kris awakes from the traumatic experience with little recollection of what has happened but is fortunate to meet Jeff (Caruth), who has been the victim of the same process. Will the pair be able to work together to discover what has happened to them?
For more about Upstream Color and the Upstream Color Blu-ray release, see Upstream Color Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on May 7, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Amy Seimetz, Shane Carruth
Director: Shane Carruth
» See full cast & crew
Upstream Color Blu-ray Review
The grub of life.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, May 7, 2013
Have you ever had a dream where you keep dreaming that you've woken up, only to realize you're still dreaming, only now you're dreaming you're awake? This Chinese nesting box of consciousness may be about the only way to adequately impart the hallucinogenic and disorienting qualities of writer-director Shane Carruth's impressive yet unfathomable Upstream Color. Carruth seems well positioned to be another Terrence Malick, at least in terms of constructing labyrinthine and often indecipherable films that still manage to cast a considerable spell on at least some of their audiences. Think The Tree of Life on drugs. Or more drugs, as the case may be. What is Upstream Color about? Well, that's a good question, and I'm not entirely sure I have a decent answer, even after having watched the entire film twice all the way through and then rewatching certain sequences for several more times. The film seems to be about a hapless young woman named Kris (Amy Seimetz), a young urban professional who may be a visual effects artist on a science fiction film (interesting, that, considering one particularly disturbing CGI effect in the film—but read on), but who is accosted in an early scene, tased, and then forced to ingest a parasitic worm or grub like creature that we've already seen her attacker harvesting for what appears to be a drug concocted by brewing the grubs in a sort of tea. Kris is almost instantly quasi-lobotomized into being the attacker's hypnotized puppet, and it soon becomes apparent that the man, identified in the credits as Thief (Thiago Martins), is out to divest Kris of her well earned personal property and bank accounts. In a sort of subliminal suggestion montage, Thief has Kris do all sorts of disturbing things, not just limited to divesting herself of her assets. She also willingly copies pages of Henry David Thoreau's Walden by hand, folding the copies into precisely calibrated tubes per Thief's instructions, and then gluing them into large "paper chains" that soon fill up her home. But, wait, you also get. . .
Thief leaves Kris in a drugged stupor after he's done taking everything she owns, and she awakens to see the parasite slithering just beneath her skin in several places around her body. Still in a daze, she attacks herself with a butcher knife. And then things get really strange. A man with a tiny sampling keyboard (identified as The Sampler and played by Andrew Sensening) sets up huge speakers in a field that begin emitting a bizarre "whooshing" sound. Almost like a salmon inexorably drawn back to its spawning ground, Kris shows up and tells the man that "it won't come out". The Sampler then springs into some sort of bizarre action, hooking Kris up to a pig (I swear I am not making any of this up) and either doing a blood transfusion or some sort of other medical procedure that is not clearly defined. Is Kris cured? Well, she at least suddenly remembers she has a home and a job, although as things progress she finds she really has nothing.
Some undefined time later Kris is approached by a man on a train who obviously wants to get to know her. Jeff (played by Carruth) seems to be well meaning, but Kris is a bit on edge (you would be, too, if you weren't sure if an alien worm were swimming around in your bloodstream and if you had lost everything that had made you who you thought you were). The film then essays a gradually developing romance of sorts between Jeff and Kris, something that reveals a new layer when we see Jeff hypnotically pulling the paper sleeves off of straws and assembling them in the same sort of chain we'd previously seen Kris do with her handwritten copies of pages from Walden. Soon we learn there may be a whole community of these "grub hosts". Well, allrighty then.
Upstream Color's press material suggests it's about people trying to reestablish their identities, and it's not hard to see that part of the film, especially if it's related to what appears to be Carruth's indictment of the effects of drugs. What makes the thesis a bit unsettling is Kris at least had no desire to consume the drug, and in fact was attacked and forced to ingest the worm which later ate through her life as she knew it. No, there has to be something else going on here, but Carruth holds his cards completely close to his vest. Several news reports from Sundance (where Carruth stormed the film world a few years ago with his equally opaque Primer) suggest that when Carruth was peppered with questions from a totally confused audience, even he couldn't come up with a decent précis of the film.
This is a film of unanswered (and perhaps unanswerable) questions. Why is Kris singled out by Thief for this horrifying turn of events? What is the bizarre choreography the two worm ingesting kids at the beginning of the film engage in? Why does The Sampler seem to be invisible to many people, and why does he seem to "feed" on human agony? What's up with the mysteriously changing colors of flowers? Is the motif of Walden somehow relevant? What are we to make of all those pigs? These may seem like relatively innocuous queries, but so much of Upstream Color is suffused with such a feeling of dread and portent that it's hard not to assume that Carruth had some sort of master plan, though the reports from Sundance seem to indicate that perhaps he didn't and this may be a brilliantly constructed hodgepodge that has no true internal meaning nor any significantly revelatory message.
And yet as odd as it may sound, I'm going to posit that whether or not Carruth had anything "important" to say is irrelevant to how effective this film is. And even those who walk away completely befuddled by Upstream Color are more than likely to agree with me it's a one of a kind fever dream that is so bizarre and so unique that it instantly becomes unforgettable. The film is a deliberate exercise in montage theory, with a rather ironic use of quick cutting that nonetheless creates a completely lugubrious, spaced out ambience unlike anything else I can readily bring to mind in my film going experience. Carruth may in fact be the latest modern master of style over substance, but when the style is this arresting, it's hard not to give in to the dream and to cease caring if you ever wake up.
Upstream Color Blu-ray, Video Quality
Upstream Color is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of New Video Group with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.34:1. This digitally shot feature has been intentionally bled of color for much of its "exterior" footage, while shots of what's going on inside the bodies are often vivid and brightly hued. Fine detail is exceptional, though Carruth tends to favor shallow focus, which means that sometimes things go slightly soft and fuzzy at times due to what appears to focus being pulled manually as scenes are being shot. Contrast is generally strong, with crisp shadow detail even in nighttime sequences.
Upstream Color Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Upstream Color features lossless DTS-HD Master Audio mixes in both 5.1 and 2.0. I highly recommend listening to the 5.1 mix if your home theater setup allows for it, as this film has a really subtle and evocative mix. This is not "in your face" (and/or ears) mix, but it features some fascinating foley effects that often segue into each other. A perfect example is when Jeff is pulling the paper sleeves off the straws and the "crinkling" sound of the papers being folded then blends into brown autumn leaves rustling in the breeze. Surround activity is near continual in this mix due to Carruth's nonstop synth score (Carruth is the very model of a modern multihyphenate). Large swaths of this film play out with nary a word of dialogue, and yet the sound design is still incredibly effective. There are some minor but noticeable audio sync issues that plague the 5.1 mix, which become particularly evident at around the 28:25 mark (toggling to the 2.0 mix here reveals much less of a problem). Fidelity is excellent, though dynamic range is muted.
Upstream Color Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
No supplements are offered on this Blu-ray disc.
Upstream Color Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I'm tempted to say Carruth's ultimate point in Upstream Color is to show us that we're stronger together than separately, no matter how "alien" we may feel or whatever wounds we're trying to heal. That may be way too reductive for a film this intentionally provocative, but it probably suffices as well as any other generic answer to the all important question "What does this movie mean?" Disengage your rational mind when you watch Upstream Color and simply let its hallucinatory power wash over you like a drug. Unlike the characters in the film, you at least have the pause button on your remote to break your "addiction", but my hunch is you probably won't want to press it. Highly recommended.
Upstream Color Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: May 7-14 - May 5, 2013
For the week of May 7th, Paramount Home Media Entertainment is bringing Jack Reacher to Blu-ray. The film is actually an adaptation of Lee Child's novel One Shot, and fans took great exception with director Chris McQuarrie's decision to cast Tom Cruise as the ...
Upstream Color Blu-ray, Forum Discussions
Upstream Color Blu-ray Screenshots
Back to Upstream Color Blu-ray »
Trending Blu-ray Movies
Trending in Theaters
This web site is not affiliated with the Blu-ray Disc Association.
All trademarks are the property of the respective trademark owners.
© 2002-2014 Blu-ray.com. All rights reserved.