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'Upstream Color' review - Edinburgh Film Festival 2013

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Director: Shane Carruth; Screenwriter: Shane Carruth ; Starring: Amy Seimetz, Shane Carruth, Andrew Sensenig; Running time: 96 mins


If Helen Of Troy was the figure that launched a thousand ships, then Upstream Color is the film that launched an immeasurable number of forays into Google following its screening at the 2013 Edinburgh International Film Festival. Just what is the meaning of this seemingly impenetrable but hypnotic movie that bears the power to both mesmerise and alienate in equal measure? It's ostensibly about the circle of life, but don't expect Elton John to appear and belt out a certain song from The Lion King.

Amy Seimetz delivers a terrific turn as office worker Kris, who is forcibly abducted by a crook and implanted with a worm-like parasite that affects her behaviour. While she jots down the text of Thoreau's 'Walden' in a zombie-like trance, her bank funds are depleted and she's soon strapped to a bed having a transplant operation involving a pig. It's vaguely coherent up to that point, with moments of Cronenbergian body horror, but the cryptic events that ensue involve psychic pig farms, orchid pollination, a creepy sound recordist and diving in swimming pools. SOS Google!

Best known for his 2004 movie Primer, writer/director Shane Carruth - who also stars as Kris's love interest Jeff - has created a curious world that seems propelled by its own internal logic. The film, for all its bizarre, unexplained moments, never doubts itself or what it's doing. This confidence helps to sweep us along with it, despite occasional feelings of inconsequentiality due to its nature, leading to the aforementioned Googling frenzy and several interesting theories that abound.

Bathed in mystery and bolstered by an ethereal soundtrack, Upstream Color is a unique and challenging entity that merits further exploration and viewing. Much like the worm that's forced into Kris's body, you can't wriggle free from this film and it won't stop growing inside you as time goes by.

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