Posted by: greercn | October 9, 2013

Upstream Color

Pigs. Worm-like creatures. Orchids. Damaged souls. Water. Yes, “Upstream Color” is weird.

Throw in odd and original music, sensational light effects and long and loving shots of hands and truly unsettling surgery scenes and you think of Terrence Malick and David Cronenberg, in equal measures.

And yet, there is great originality here. Despite so many inexplicable ingredients, I feel that Shane Carruth is creating a new form, bathed in distinctive sounds, sights and creatures, including the human kind.

So, good weird or bad weird? New meaning or the emperor has no clothes?

If your education included Structuralism and Post Modernism, there are lots of signifiers and signs to make you very happy indeed.

Male critics of a certain age will be frothing out new theories with enormous glee as they justify their university years while watching a screen, at last.

I’d love to tell you the plot, but I haven’t the faintest idea what it is. Wikipedia has a great theory. My friend Nigel – it was his idea to see this – has an even cleverer theory than Wikipedia does.

Nigel was the one who noticed the blue orchids are upstream while the white orchids are downstream. Hence, the title.

I was still wrestling, in my head, with what the changing hairstyles of the lead female character, Kris, might mean in terms of chronology.

Carruth’s 2004 movie “Primer” is accessible and mainstream, when compared to this. At least the viewer knew it was about time travel and invention.

Is “Upstream” about healing, animal rights, shared memory, victimhood, orchids, pigs or the struggling of the soul towards self-improvement?

I saw it as part of the Discover Tuesdays programme at Stratford East Picturehouse. The cinema was full of respectful filmgoers, all dressed in black, achingly hip and probably all called Sam.

They filled the air with ideas, as we left the cinema.

Me, I am still puzzled. I think I enjoyed most of it. It’s visually striking and glows, although I could have lived without seeing the icky bits.

Shane Carruth – writer, director, actor and musician – is undoubtedly a genius.

I think I like my genius genre to be a little more accessible. If you want to discuss it at length, come to the Birkbeck Tavern in E11 in London, England and ask for Nige.



  1. Just watched this the other day and thought it was very good. Better than Primer in my eyes, however, my eyes are stupid, so what do I know?!?! Good review Greer. Check out mine on Sunday when you get the chance.

  2. Thank you! I will check out yours. Still, I am full of theories – and confused.

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