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Movie review: ‘Upstream Color'

Posted 1:06pm on Thursday, Apr. 18, 2013

Unrated (adult themes); 96 min.

Shane Carruth earned a devoted following with his first film, the twisty, low-budget sci-fi thriller Primer, nearly a decade ago. It had viewers scratching their heads in both puzzlement and amazement.

Now, Carruth — formerly based in Dallas and now in New York City — is back with the more lavish yet equally byzantine Upstream Color, an emotionally chilly, visually ravishing love story/sci-fi tale of sorts that makes little sense if you try to parse all the plot points. But, taken as a whole, it’s an impressive piece of filmmaking that shows Carruth’s talents as director, actor, cinematographer and composer.

Kris (Amy Seimetz) is a woman who finds herself the victim of a man who drugs her with a chemical found in certain grubs. When she comes out of her hypnotic state, she realizes that she’s not the only one. Jeff (Carruth) is another such victim and together they forge a bond. This makes the story sound more straightforward than it is; we haven’t even mentioned the pig farmer (Andrew Sensenig) yet.

But none of that really matters as Carruth marries visuals (Dallas as an urban panorama has rarely looked both so alluring and forbidding on film), sound and music into a compelling aesthetic whole. The big question now is whether he’ll make us wait another 10 years for his next film.

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