Despite being a movie that a significant majority of the moviegoing public probably knows nothing about, Shane Carruth’s 2004 film Primer should be firmly lodged near the top of any “Best Time Travel Movies” list you care to compile. The story about some hard-working engineers who inadvertently create a time machine while trying to build something else takes a simple premise and then folds it back over and through itself so much that the movie demands at least two viewings to digest. I gush all that effusive praise as a way of saying that I’ve been eagerly waiting ever since to see whether Carruth had more than one brilliant movie in him or not. Now, some six years later, Carruth’s mysterious new film, Upstream Color, is about to premiere at Sundance, and a first trailer has popped up online. What can we learn from this first glimpse at Upstream Color? I honestly have no freaking idea.
So, let’s review. We’ve got a guy claiming to have a disfigured sun-head. There are some mysteriously twirling ice cubes. There is a pig, a lady shooting something, some flowers, and a second lady that appears to be having an orgasm. Then a bunch of disjointed confusing imagery, another appearance by the pig, an MRI, and a guy who seems to have a serious mad-on for a tree.
Yeah, I have no idea what any of it means. And I’m okay with that. Primer has earned Carruth my undiluted enthusiasm, at least until such time as I watch Upstream Color and can evaluate it for myself. Honestly, I can’t think of any way you could effectively sum up Primer in a 52-second trailer either, so I actually kind of dig the impenetrability of this clip.
Of course, I could be setting myself up for a major disappointment. Carruth could be another Richard Kelly, breaking through with a singularly brilliant movie, only to have his later films leave everyone wondering if the first one was an accident. I certainly hope not.
Here’s the official synopsis, which provides just as many answers as the trailer. (That would be “zero.”)
A man and woman are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism. Identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives.