Upstream Color

Director: Shane Carruth
Year Released: 2013
Rating: 1.5

Carruth, some nine years after making the sci-fi Primer, returns with this fractured narrative about the tense relationship between a man (Carruth himself, narcissist extraordinaire) and a troubled young woman (Amy Seimetz) with a disturbing past: it begins, obnoxiously enough, focusing on grub worms (presumably used to make some powerful drug) and ends with recitations of Thoreau's Walden and raising pigs. The obfuscation is not only intentional but also necessary so as to try to mask the movie's inner vacuity: Carruth breaks up the amateurish 'narrative' into abstract segments, gaudy metaphors (pigs wrapped in a sack and thrown into a river while Carruth and Seimetz experience some kind of psychic turmoil) and eye-rolling references to Thoreau's plea for "simple living" and "self-sufficiency" (hooray, farmers!). Carruth's basically playing this pseudo-intellectual game with the audience, giving out bits and pieces and 'challenging' everyone to assemble the jigsaw puzzle, but it's a magician's trick: this isn't about human connection, it's about a engineer-turned-filmmaker's unrolling a shaggy patchwork quilt of disparate concepts.