The Genuinely Enigmatic film “Upstream Color”.

Shane Carruth and Amy in "Upstream Color".

Shane Carruth and Amy Seinmetz in “Upstream Color”.

When talking about his 1987 film Wings Of Desire, Wim Wenders said there are two types of films. Those that say this is what I am, be it a thriller, a love story, or a romantic comedy. And then there are those that ask you, what am I?

Few films fit quite so comfortably into that second category as Shane Carruth’s latest feature, Upstream Color. This is the follow up to his 2004 debut Primer, which was interesting, but very much a first film calling-card. This is a significantly more substantial affair. So what is it?

Amy Steinmetz in Upstream Color.

Amy Steinmetz in Upstream Color.

Well, it’s clearly some class of a love story. But the two leads, played by Carruth himself and the impressive Amy Seinmetz seem to inhabit some sort of a contemporary dystopia, where nefarious individuals are harvesting mutant maggots.

Against which though, there seems to be some sort of benign individual shadowing the victims to administer a cure, in much the same way that the angels glide through the aforementioned Wings Of Desire offering succour.

Bruno Ganz in Wenders' "Wings Of Desire".

Bruno Ganz in Wenders’ “Wings Of Desire”.

But Carruth is clearly at least as interested in visual and sonic juxtapositions and the connections and moods they produce, as he is in narrative coherence or intellectual clarity. Remarkably, and very unusually, this doesn’t detract– at least as yet – from the experience of watching his films.

Steven Soderbergh has said of him that,

“I view David as the illegitimate offspring of David Lynch and James Cameron.”

But the loudest cinematic echoes evoke David Cronenberg (whose under-rated Cosmopolis I review earlier here). If Cronenberg had taken acid and had somehow managed to make an entire feature film that night, this is what it would look and feel like.

Cold, unquestionably, at times creepy, and at others somewhat anaemic. But constantly interesting and endlessly fascinating. This is that rare thing, a genuinely enigmatic film. And Carrruth is one of the very few serious film makers working today.

See the trailer to Upstream Color here.

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