‘The Act of Killing’ Tops Sight & Sound 2013 Poll

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End of year lists can be great for highlighting stuff you may have missed, and the annual poll from UK film magazine Sight & Sound, one of the first 2013 year-end lists out of the gate, has a number of films included that are worth tracking down. The magazine polls over 100 “international critics, curators and academics,” taking a top-five list from each. The magazine’s list of top films (with some tied for a couple berths) is generated from those votes.

Documentary The Act of Killing, which follows as men responsible for genocidal killings in Indonesia confront and recreate their crimes as film scenes, took first place by a margin of five votes. Gravity and Blue is the Warmest Colour are the second and third place choices.

The full list is below, complete with trailers for each film, so you can be introduced to whatever films on the list are unfamiliar. Read More »

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Primer and Upstream Color writer/director/star Shane Carruth is an exceedingly generous interview subject. You might expect the creator of two very thoughtful pieces of genre film to be aloof or overly cerebral. But in conversation he has a tendency to react with exclamations like “wow” and “that’s so great” followed by thoughtful and digressive answers.

Maybe it’s just that I spoke to Carruth partway through Sundance, after Upstream Color had been shown only a couple of times, and he was still processing audience reactions. The film is not a typical narrative, and while it is also not outrageously obscure or difficult to puzzle out, I can imagine that Carruth might have been concerned about how audiences would respond to the picture. The chance to positively converse with people about something you’ve crafted in a bubble must be a source of great relief, even oh exultation. Every “wow!” seemed to be like a moment where Carruth realized that his experimental narrative worked, rather than one where he was impressed by the question.

Be warned that the conversation that follows is full of spoilers for Upstream Color. I sought, originally, to talk about the film in a way that wouldn’t give things away, but that intention dissipated with Carruth’s very first answer. There’s no way to talk about this film without really getting into the details of it. Fortunately, even when talking about the details of the plot, there’s a lot of room for interpretation with respect to meaning — Upstream Color is a film that will provoke many different readings. Read More »

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What a beautiful thing, Upstream Color. Shane Carruth‘s second film is a melange of surprises and delights. For an audience familiar with Primer, Carruth’s time-layering ouroboros of a debut, one element may be more surprising than all others: simplicity. Though the telling of this new film is by no means conventional, the core is an elegant idea, yet one rich enough to foster myriad interpretations.

Crafted with an awe-inspiring confidence, Upstream Color establishes a strange and frightening sci-fi framework, then works within that frame to probe the nature of human relationships, and our proximity to and power over the forces that define us. The wild elements of the plot allow Carruth to examine love and destiny with unexpected sensitivity. Upstream Color belongs in the company of 2001 and Solaris; it stands with the very best that speculative fiction has to offer.

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Shane Carruth‘s film Upstream Color is my favorite film of the year so far. The strange but tender love story is colored with surprising and unsettling sci-fi concepts, all told in a manner that perfectly straddles the line between direct and oblique.

A big part of the film’s success is the score, composed by Carruth. At times the music provides big swells of sound on which the narrative action can roll forward, and at others the compositions are more halting, to echo the evolution of some of the action on screen.

The full score is available now to stream, and also for pre-order on vinyl, which comes with a DRM-free digital download. The good news is that the track titles, which can be read in the streaming embed below, don’t give away anything about the plot. Those who’ve seen the film will know what they refer to, but for the great many people who haven’t yet had a chance to see the movie, the titles will be no more spoiler-laden than the trailers. Read More »

‘Upstream Color’ Video Reaction [Sundance 2013]

Today at Sundance saw the premiere of Upstream Color, the second film from Primer director Shane Carruth. Trailers for the movie position the film as an enigma, and while the film is hardly mainstream, I would argue that the feature isn’t nearly as impenetrable as those first looks suggested. That said, this film is quite a puzzle, and a very rewarding one.

It has been nine years since Primer made its festival debut, and in that time Carruth has polished his skills as a filmmaker. Upstream Color begins with a base in science fiction, but the sci-fi element is really just a launching pad for a story about two people trying to rebuild their identities after suffering severe trauma. It is an adventurous film, often playing with little dialogue, instead letting strong audio and visual components tell the story.

After the screening Germain and I recorded a video blog to get our first impressions on record. This isn’t a full-fledged review by any means; there’s a lot to think about, and a process to working out how to properly give the film its due without spoiling the mysteries within. That said, I’ve been thinking about Upstream Color constantly since the screening ended, and I don’t think my very positive view of the film is likely to change.

Check out the video below. We dance around the plot quite a bit in the video, and there isn’t anything given away here. Read More »

In just a few days we’ll get to see the premiere of Shane Carruth‘s new film, Upstream Color, at Sundance. It won’t be too long afterward that Carruth will distribute the film himself, staring in New York and rolling out to some other cities, and digital platforms. And he’s even got a new film, The Modern Ocean, planned to shoot this summer. A near-decade away from the film scene, and now the man is back in a big way.

To enhance your interest in Upstream Color, here’s the first full-length trailer, which offers slightly more clues to the story, but ultimately raises more questions. In truth I’m trying not to delve too deeply into this trailer, in favor of waiting for the full film. But the images here are enticing, and mysterious enough that I think they’ll make exactly the right audience even more interested in the movie. Read More »

The second minute-long teaser for Shane Carruth‘s second film Upstream Color is almost as enigmatic as the first. This one adds much more dialogue, to complement another spare bit of voiceover, and that helps ground the footage. It isn’t quite as outlandish and puzzling as the first teaser. But there’s still only the barest hint of what’s really going on.

I’m trying to manage my expectations for the film — basically I’d like to prevent them from going through the roof. The few people I’ve talked to who have already seen the film are quite enthusiastic about it. But I’ve been cautioned more than once that this, like Carruth’s Primer, is a small film. That’s not a comment on the film’s effectiveness; just on ambition and scale. Doesn’t really change my intense desire to see it, either.

Check out this new teaser below. Read More »

‘Upstream Color’ Trailer: A Warning, Or a Promise?

This is the place where I’m supposed to be able to put the first footage from Shane Carruth‘s second film into some sort of context, but I just can’t do it. The movie is Upstream Color, and it follows Carruth’s 2004 indie sci-fi debut Primer. That ’04 effort quickly became a benchmark in hardcore science fiction, thanks to the very matter of fact manner in which it explored the personal and moral ramifications that might arise if a couple guys had access to a time machine.

The trailer for Upstream Color is gorgeous — expect to hear more than a few references to Kubrick and Malick — but I can’t pretend to have any idea about what it actually tells us about the film. Check it out below.  Read More »

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