Sunday, 28 April 2013


Upstream Colour needs a little more sensibility and a little less sensitivity. In strict narrative terms (although Shane Carruth has taken every known measure to avoid conforming to strict narrative terms), Upstream Colour is sci-fi; sci-fi films are built with blocks of innovation on a foundation of reason - those which stand up to close inspection have concepts based on reason, those which crumble are merely flimsy assemblages of neat ideas. Carruth, working technical wonders on a low budget, builds his tower tall, filling, expanding and elaborating upon his concept. But the foundations are absent. In basic terms, there is no point to Upstream Colour. It communicates nothing, it teaches nothing, it's not even fun to watch. All this prowess, the masterful framing, the delicate sound design, the precise editing - in moments, this is an enchanting film to behold - needs an emotional weight attached, something less ephemeral to give it a sense of purpose. What it is is rather closer to an art exhibition than a film. The issue lies in Carruth's rather arch cleverness, as he has most diligently distorted a perfectly straightforward plot in every manner conceivable, and quite why he has done this is beyond me, I confess. The cynic in me imagines it is plain old pretentiousness, and the eartnestness with which Carruth goes about this experiment has convinced me that there's no hint of irony mixed in. Would that make it more bearable? Probably, although it might risk devaluing all that Carruth has achieved with this film - he's a highly skilled filmmaker, and I won't deny that he has surely accomplished exactly what he intended to, which makes it likely that some will connect with Upstream Colour most profoundly. But when I trace this tale back to its origin, and his intentions back to theirs, I find an emptiness and a pomposity (respectively) which I can't at all connect with.