If I had to define myself? I’d walk out the door without a word. I don’t define myself. And thus, with Luis Buñuel’s own words, begins a fantastic 37 minute presentation on the filmmaker by the French series Cinéastes de notre temps. Evidently, Buñuel knows how transformative he is: a surrealist from a strong Catholic background and a Best Director winner at Cannes turned into an ultra-low budget filmmaker are just a few examples of the Buñuels we know.
Greatly admirable is Luis Buñuel’s determination to always be on his own path, never to censor or restrict himself, always to see film as an open canvas for all things. This is an attribute to admire and to absorb for all filmmakers today. In being yourself, bringing your personality to the screen, and trusting your instincts, unique and maybe even innovative works can be produced. You may be on your way to becoming the next Luis Buñuel. Till then, learn more about the surreal—above the real!—filmmaker in this exploration of his career and personality.
The kind of film we have been waiting for, or at least I have, Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color reminds me of what Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time and Alain Robbe-Grillet’s La Jalousie did for the novel: explore the fresh ways one can approach storytelling.
The film in many ways reflects the characteristics of Robbe-Grillet’s Nouveau Roman, such as the rejection of plot, a focus on details, explanation replaced by depiction, and most importantly, an emphasis on the experience of the created world. In regards to Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, the film is similar to the novel as it is a work on human consciousness, portrayed through a voyage in time and memory, both sharing in the fragility of each other.
Though seemingly complicated, the story of Upstream Color is simple. A psychedelic worm ruins the life of a woman, played by Amy Seimetz, who, in the aftermath, can not recall the events that led to her present state. She is then drawn to a stranger, played by filmmaker Shane Carruth, with a similar story. The film follows these two lost souls as they try to recover their identities and search for the answers to their mysterious pasts.
What is remarkable about Upstream Color is its visual storytelling. The visual and audio relationship is always at a heightened state, making the film more an experience than a story. Everything is multi-layed and sensual (of the senses), which I believe will lead to Shane Carruth’s goal for the film.
The best films are those that we need to revisit time after time, and Carruth has stated precisely this to be an attribute he wanted to inject into Upstream Color. At least for me, Upstream Color is already among those films that I like to describe as music albums. The ones you play over and over because you need to. Le Samouraï, Au Hasard Balthazar, Mirror, In the Mood for Love, Drive, Hunger, Reprise, and others, welcome Upstream Color.
Shane Carruth is the kind of filmmaker who asks more out of his audience. His films are not just about entertainment. They are about the most important aspect of film: engagement. He is also a unique filmmaker in that he plays most of the roles behind his works. The reason he writes, directs, produces, shoots, edits, and composes? It may be about control but the quintessential reason for him is about being earnest. There is something to say about a film that is treated like other works of art that possess a sole hand behind their creation. Thankfully, Carruth has a dynamic hand and style when it comes to painting his cinematic canvases and his ideas on cinema are just as strong.
New Directors/New Films is an annual showcase of work by emerging filmmakers from around the world, held by Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art. ND/NF 2013 welcomed Primer and Upstream Color director Shane Carruth to speak about his latest film. What ensued is an intriguing discussion on filmmaking and a film that has the influence to change American cinema.
Check out these video excerpts from the Q&A, followed by the full presentation!
On the Visual Language of Upstream Color
On Storyboarding Upstream Color
On the Title of Upstream Color
On the Influence of Walden on Upstream Color
Complete New Directors/New Films Q&A: Shane Carruth and Upstream Color