Upstream Color director Shane Carruth on FIlm Society's Daily Buzz with Eugene Hernandez. Photo: Lansia Wann
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Shane Carruth stopped by the Stateside Theater on day two of SXSW to discuss his highly-anticipated new film Upstream Color with Eugene Hernandez on Film Society's Daily Buzz podcast. The film World Premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January to a glowing reception. It will have its New York Premiere later this month in Film Society and MoMA's 42nd New Directors/New Films festival.
When asked about the original idea that gave birth to this incredibly unique second feature—part thriller, part science fiction, fully immersive sensory experience—Carruth pointed to his fascination with identity and personal narrative.
“I wanted to take some characters and strip them of their narrative or their identity and have them have to rebuild it based on, potentially, the wrong information,” he explained. “They wake up in a moment and they have to atone for what it looks like they did, so they decide: 'Oh, I must be this kind of person.' And then they try to fulfill that role, but there would be this tension because it would always be just a bit off.”
Perhaps surprisingly, Carruth also stressed the inherently romantic nature of the story he was telling. “I have something in me that finds it really romantic to have characters that are broken down and destroyed and having nothing left to lose. There's this romantic promise in the air,” he said.
Amy Seimetz and Shane Carruth in Upstream Color
When asked what it was about this moment of desparation that he found romantic, he noted how hard it was to verbalize. “That feeling of nothing left to lose is palpable. Maybe because then the romance isn't just a fun thing or a date. Maybe this is the salvation. Maybe this is the thing that will make me feel not so destroyed and alone. It's not trivial at that point.
Like his first feature Primer, which took the Sundance Film Festival by storm in 2004, winning awards, near-universal praise, and an almost immediate cult following, Upstream Color plays with natural and, sometimes, more-than-natural cycles in a way that wraps the audience into the storytelling.
“All of the otherworldly elements are there to get us to that moment,” Carruth justified. “I needed something that was affecting [the characters] at a distance, things they could not put their fingers on or why they were experiencing them. There's a lot of criteria that needed to be met to come up with this life cycle of weird things that are happening around them.”
Listen to today's Daily Buzz podcast for more from Shane Carruth, plus a preview of SXSW Music from Jason Bentley of KCRW, interviews with the filmmakers behind Mr. Angel and No More Road Trips, and a spirited Hot Topics roundtable.
Marjorie Baumgarten, The Austin Chronicle
J.J. Colao, Forbes
Azeem Azhar, Peer Index
Upstream Color (Shane Carruth)
Mr. Angel (Dan Hunt and subject Buck Angel)
No More Road Trips (Rick Prelinger)
Jason Bentley, KCRW