Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"Upstream Color": The world according to Shane Carruth (that is, David Lynch does Dallas); Texas filmmaking is strong

The new psychedelic trip, “Upstream Color”, by Shane Carruth, comes across as a kind of heterosexual “Judas Kiss” (June 4, 2011). Both films have a “Shane” who can be as overpowering and demanding as the original from the famous western.
I do recall Carruth’s earlier “Primer”, produced for $7000, where nice young business executives in Dallas played with a time machine.
Again, the setting is Dallas – with settings ranging from the DART station on Mockingbird (I think, near the Angelika center) to pig farms to Lake Lewisville north of the city on I-35. It’s good to see real locations when you lived there for nine years in the 1980s (I was last there in November 2011). 

The film falls roughly into three parts. In the opening, Kris (Amy Seimetz) deals with her demons, which include larval bugs crawling under her skin.  Is this a drug trip, or psychosis?  Well, we get to see the larva, as a neighboring teen (Myles McGee) cultivates them.  She has a couple of man-friends, one of whom seems to have a pig farm.  Well, pardon me, this man (Frank Mosley) is supposed to be her husband, and seems rather inert and nondescript. 

Enter the hero, Jeff – that is, Shane himself.  The middle part of the movie details their intimate relationship, and also gives up “Jeff’s” manipulative background.  Now Shane, 40 according to imdb – looks much younger, like about 28 or so.  As with Gabriel Mann (Nolan) on ABC’s “Revenge”, it helps to be very lean.  In this case, Shane is both taut and hairy, the perfect male.  He seems free-wheeling, and says he does everything in cash, because he got caught in some kind of securities fraud.  I wondered, why would Shane present “himself” this way (as a likable swindler)..  People wondered that about one of my own scripts (“The Sub”) where a character based on me falls for temptation. 
The plot, loose as it is, goes in a logical direction.  There’s a love triangle of sorts, and Kris needs to get the wrong man out of the way. 

The film (2..35:1) has a brooding moog music score by Carruth himself.  He really shows talent for composing – maybe his music could get performed in concert by other friends I have covered on my “Drama and Music” blog.   It seems like a number of actors and directors started out in the art world with piano lessons. 

Apparently Shane’s wife plays the “orchid mother”. 

The official site is here

Shane says that his work is a “topiary” (metaphor), where one character doesn’t need to know what the others are doing.  The tone of the film definitely recalls David Lynch.  It also (in the beginning) reminds me of the classic horror short “Bugcrush” (Jan. 28, 2008).  

I saw this at the West End Cinema, early evening show, before a small crowd.

The film is self-distributed by “Erbp”, Carruth’s own company.  It strikes me as a logical entry for the catalogue of fellow Texan Mark Cuban’s “Magnolia Pictures” and HDNet, however. 
The film played at Sundance.  Did it play at festivals in Texas (like SXSW)?  Had it not already been released, it probably would have been in FilmfestDC. 

Picture: from my visit, 2011, DART on Mockingbird Lane in Dallas (Northpark used to be there; Angelika is there now.) 

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