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When I spoke with Shane Carruth on February 26, 2013, he talked about how chronology, the traditional, linear variety, was becoming less and less important to him when it comes to making movies. As befits a filmmaker who made a time-travel film, PRIMER, that used no special effects and whose UPSTREAM COLOR can be described as a radically experimental films grounded firmly in emotional reality, he has lately been more concerned with the non-linear, emotional chronologies of the characters who people his films. He called it “skipping through the mechanics of storytelling,” and considering the way his films soar in a universe of their creation, that is an apt way to put it. His is an unusual process, including composing music for scenes, though he’s had no training as a musician as a way of giving himself permission continue. If the music works, e explained, then the scene does, though, he laughingly admits, he’s not technically the guy who should be doing any of the things he’s doing. Something his friend, LOOPER’s Rian Johnson, might argue with considering he gives Carruth a thank you credit in that film, which Carruth explains during our conversation.
We were recording in the lobby of the storied Roxie Theater in San Francisco, where UPSTREAM COLOR made its San Francisco debut, and Carruth, in a fine example of his synthesis, grooved rather than got grumpy when the sound of an ambulance siren went by, citing it as a further example of what his film is about, experiencing reality in layers. It’s the sort of thing that reveals him as a man fully engaged creatively at any given moment, and in any given situation. It goes far in explaining his filmmaking as an extension of his psyche.
UPSTREAM COLOR follows a young couple half of whom is played by Carruth himself, who feel torn between the feelings they experience from the world in which they live, as well as intimations from elsewhere that they can’t quite identify, nor can they ignore. The reasons for those feelings are as much a refutation of free will as the sequences of another couple, one of whom is under the spell of the other, and coerced to do things she cannot explain. The actions of all involved make no sense when viewed in isolation, but taken as a whole make sense, though not the sense of a Euclidean-Newtonian world. This world is far more visceral, and is depicted in a film so perfectly visual in its storytelling that words can only fall short in describing it. This is more than a film, it is an experience that bypasses the gate of the conscious mind and speaks directly to the emotions using the very vocabulary of feeling, not thinking. Profound, provocative, it is at once both crystal clear and incandescently enigmatic. UPSTREAM COLOR is like nothing else you have ever seen, or will see again, even from Mr. Carruth, whose mind gallops with inspiration too quickly to repeat himself. It is an aeon of philosophy in 96 minutes.
To listen to my interview, click the link below.