My review of Shane Carruth’s enigmatic Upstream Color ended with a statement that it was a film “I’m eager to revisit.” Six months later, the film’s strengths and weaknesses became more apparent.
One such weakness: I remain unconvinced by Carruth’s acting. He’s an impressive director, producer, sound engineer etc … but an average actor.
I described the film as strongly Malickian earlier, but I think that was inaccurate. Malick’s films are about trying and failing to grasp the insubstantial beauty of nature, in one form or another; his camera drifts with vague purpose. Carruth is much more exacting; there’s an arresting economy to the way his film is editing, especially in the early scenes.
That’s to its detriment in those scenes; there’s so much information conveyed that attempting to puzzle out its intricacies distracts from the poetry. Thankfully, once the details of the bugs and hypnosis and such are established, Carruth relaxes and produces some magnetically masterful stuff. In particular, the scene that juxtaposes the Sampler’s recordings and his observations of past victims is just amazing; not only is it visually and aurally gorgeous, the notion of modifying frequencies resonates with the wavelengths of lives through which the Sampler oscillates.