Two-Headed Boy, by Matt Warren
When talking to my girlfriend about why I was so excited for Upstream Color, I explained that director Shane Carruth was sort of like a indie sci-fi Jeff Mangum: a genius auteur who’d burst out of nowhere with a singular work of iconic brilliance and then disappeared just as quickly. Sure, the analogy isn’t airtight, but the comparison between Carruth’s 2004 debut Primer and Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over the Sea at least illustrates the esteem in which each project is held by their cult of fans. But while we’re still waiting for Mangum’s comeback, at least now we have Carruth’s Uptream Color, a bold new work that should satisfy fans of Primer (to the extent that fans of Primer can reasonably expect to be satisfied.)
Color is difficult to both summarize and categorize. Most people will tag it as science fiction, but it doesn’t feel like any science fiction movie that I’ve ever seen. It’s one part Cronenbergian body horror, and one part pure Terrence Malick poeticism. It’s wistful, dreamlike, and melancholic, obsessed with biology, lifecycles, and closed ecosystems—both in terms of its plot and its structure. It also contains some of the best sound design I’ve ever heard, with sound recording even being a major plot element.
What’s it about? I dunno, it’s weird. Two lonely people (Carruth and Amy Seimetz) meet, fall in love, and discover that their pasts may share the same formative trauma. This leads to the revelation that their lives are just a small part of a much larger whole, and that their individual existences may be even more interconnected than they think. Also: pigs. Upstream Color definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but if Carruth’s second feature is something you’re already anticipating, you won’t be let down.