What To Say After Seeing ‘Upstream Color’

Shane Carruth’s hotly anticipated follow-up to Primer, the striking bio-romance mystery Upstream Color, is less a mind-bender than a mind-pulverizer. So you may find, as I did when the lights came up after the late showing at the IFC Center last night, everyone stunned into silence. No one wants to speak first after a cinematic experience of that sort, because what if you sound like a complete idiot? Well, here are some remarks to help you get the ball rolling.

“So well-edited.”

“Did you notice how there was no dialogue in the last act?”

“I thought the score was masterful.”

“He got the effect of psychotropic bloodstream-dwelling parasite worms just right.”

“This film was unmistakably about the mutually reinforced psychosis we so foolishly refer to as ‘love.’ Also I’m breaking up with you.”

“So … there wasn’t a time machine, right?”

“The Thief guy looked more like Kal Penn in the trailer.”

“That was the kind of blue I want to paint the bathroom.”

“I am really craving bacon right now.”

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Shane Carruth & Steven Soderbergh Talk Cats, ‘The Limey’, and ‘Upstream Color’ at IFC

This past Saturday, I walked to the IFC Center for a mid-afternoon showing of Upstream Color to find the line for ticket holders longer than a city block. It was a beautiful day out and I truly didn’t mind waiting and was especially pleased because it reminded me that, okay yes, people are interested in seeing good films and the hunger for cinematic experience is still there. For a film as small and self-distributed as this, the success it’s had thus far is amazing—and I couldn’t be happier.

Anyhow, the line for this particular screening was even more long than the next showing because post-film there was to be a Q&A with director Shane Carruth, moderated by the one only Steven Soderbergh. After seeing his 2004 mind-bending time travel film, Primer, Soderbergh became a big fan of the up-and-coming filmmaker, who had been a massive fan of Soderbergh’s for years. He also was part of the producing process along with David Fincher to get Carruth’s unmade epic A Topiary completed a few years back. But on Saturday, the two took to the stage to discuss an array of things from the pattern of conspiracies in life, to the non-presence of cats in the film, whether or not Carruth’s boots proved he was intact an outdoorsy type.

The Playlist has a transcript of the wonderful Q&A, sprinkled with questions from the audience as well. Here are a few great moments but to read the rest, visit HERE. Also, take a look at our thorough interview with Carruth for more insight into his stunning and wonderful sophomore feature.

Warning: although this won’t "spoil" the film for you, there are a few things that might not make exact sense unless you’ve seen the film but whatever, it’s a great read anyways.

Soderbegh: Here’s a real question: are you prone to believe in conspiracies? Do you see patterns in the world as a person?
Carruth:
No, but it’s interesting, I’ve never been asked that and I actually feel the opposite. I would point to things in the film that showed the opposite — the lack of conspiracy. This story didn’t start with its weird elements, the life cycle, the worm/pig/orchid, it started at the center with these characters that I needed to strip of their identity and their narratives so they could be forced to regrow it and that leads to a whole set of other things. But I needed a construct to make that happen, so that’s where these other elements came into play and they are specifically made in a way that there is no conspiracy and there is no management — the thief, the pig farmer/sampler and orchid harvesters are all performing these little tricks in nature that benefit them, but are not, in their minds, they don’t care what came before or after. They’re not aware of that. To me, I was trying to create something that was long-lived and permanent and universal and not conspiratorial. And not good or bad, not malicious or benevolent.

Soderbergh: Should this have been called "Downstream Color"? Cause water goes…
Carruth: Oh, my god! You’re right! Because everything in it is so disconnected, especially the central characters being so affected by things off screen and at a distance — in my head it meant something that you couldn’t know where it was coming from. That it would also seem to be coming from some place that is — you would expect some effort to go and find it.

Soderbergh: I like cats, but there are no cats in this. What’s up with that?
Carruth: Laughs, you’re right. Unfortunately, you’re right. I had to pick a target demographic and yeah, pigs. People respond to livestock and not felines.

Soderbergh: I noticed you did a lot of jobs on this film, but not the catering.
Carruth: I had to leave something for my mom and sister in law.

Soderbergh: Just how much of the cutting to black in the film was a re-centering?
Carruth:
That’s interesting. The parts you’re talking about are the middle third which to me is the most subjective. If the first third of the film is mainly about the mechanics of the world and its more locked down than the rest of the film and it’s about control and putting Kris (Amy) through a process, the next third of it is much more subjective and seeing Kris and Jeff react to the events that we know they’ve been through, but they don’t know so my attempt was — as well as I could without any dialogue, without any POV shots — to convey subjectivity, their experiences. The music, the editing, the cinematography is meant to communicate that. Even using sound and soundscapes to as a way to show connectedness, or light and flares of light to suggest a presence. So those cuts to black they are my attempt at removing any sort of concrete timeline or sequence. I don’t think you can nail down exactly how much time has passed — whether this is a relationship that bloomed in a week or two and they got married they married 6 months later or the next day or what, its all meant to be a bit fragmented to convey that.

Photo via IFC Center

Sinking Into the World of ‘Upstream Color’ With Director Shane Carruth

Since its premiere at Sundance in January, critics and audiences have been speaking to the experience of watching Upstream Color as a mystifying emotional and psychological journey, both confounding and transcendent, leaving you breathless as the end credits roll. However, the first time I saw Shane Carruth’s sophomore film, the credits never rolled. There was a strange technological malfunction within fifteen minutes of the end, and for the rest of the night I was forced to carry this massive feeling around with me, this crescendo of emotion cut short. Whatever unconscious stimuli I was being exposed to filled me with an incredible sense of feeling and desire—but why or for what I couldn’t recognize. All I knew is when I walked out of the theater, I felt what can only be described as how Richard Brautigan once described the sun: like a huge 50-cent piece that someone had poured kerosene on and then lit with a match and said, “Here, hold this while I go get a newspaper,” and put the coin in my hand, but never came back. And of course, the next day I was able to see the film in its entirety, and since have seen it multiple times—each one better than the last.

But for Carruth—the writer, actor, director, editor, composer, and distributor—who stunned audiences back in 2004 with his time traveling debut, Primer, and then disappeared from our radar until now, his absence was worth the wait. As the tale of “a man and woman who are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism,” in which, “identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives,” Carruth plays the lead role of Jeff opposite Kris, played by the brilliant Amy Seimetz. And with Upstream Color, Carruth has created a tactile film in which the sounds and textures engulf you in its layered and complex narrative that’s as much about the interdependence and madness of love as it is about our inescapable connection to nature and the world around us. There’s a poeticism to the film despite its rich sense of structure and science that allows it to possess a spiritual quality that hits the heart more so than the mind.

Upstream Color is a fractured story about broken people, shattering your notion of love’s conventions and what draws one person to another. It forces you to let go and immerse yourself in their world and the story Carruth has created in a way that you rarely feel compelled to with most contemporary cinema. You sink into the story and allow it to ripple over you with its subtle yet absolute approach, and although it may fall into the realm of the metaphysical, it remains emotionally tangible. And I will freely admit that this is not simply one of my favorite films of the year thus far, but perhaps one of the most incredible films I have ever seen. There are few things I cherish more than the physical act of watching a film, and the experience of sitting down for two hours and allowing myself to be overcome. From Upstream Color‘s first moment, something clicks inside of me and I’m hooked, mesmerized and embedded into the roots of its world.

So it was a great pleasure last month to sit down with Carruth over mint tea to discuss the genesis of the film, the complex chemistry of its characters, and his creative autonomy over his work.

What was the inception of this story? Why was this something you wanted to express?
I was interested in personal narratives and identity and how they come to be and what can be done once they’re set. I got really curious about whether your environment or behavior dictates how you see yourself, or whether it’s the other way around. I meet a lot of people who have this sense of what you deserve from the world and what the world deserves from you and how you believe it’s all meant to go to what’s fair—political or belief systems or what else—it seems like once those are set, those now dictate, and there isn’t any more critical thought or puzzling apart things. So I wanted to strip that away from people and have them rebuild it based on not enough information. So that was the way into the story, and the more I started playing with it, it really seemed like such an emotional experience to have your identify toyed with and not really know which way is up. And once it went down that path I really fell into the idea and wanted to push it everywhere I could—especially in non-verbal ways because it seems like that’s what we need to be exploring.

One of the things I loved about the film was the structure and how it morphed throughout. It began in a very conventional way with dialogue to drive the story forward and as it went on everything became stripped away and it was just emotion and sound. I thought that non-verbal world it fell into where it was just music and action was so much more powerful than any dialogue could have given you. Did you plan that as you went along?
I knew that it was flipping over. I think of it in thirds, where the first third is pretty straightforward—as much as this movie is going to get, as far as setting up the plot structure and how everything works in this world—and the second is the personal relationship between Kris and Jeff and how that’s not quite going correctly because of this unknown quantity and that would become much more subjective, and then that segues into the last third which the entire thing flips over and we’re just in a completely subtextual world where all we’re doing is following through on the momentum that’s built that way. So I knew that the dialogue was reducing and I knew that we were getting to a point where nothing was being said except for lines from Walden being quoted back at each other—they’re not even talking anymore. But there was one last bit of conversation in the script near the end that I got rid of completely. It would have added a little texture, but I think what you gain by not having it far outweighs that, and it just seemed like the way it needed to go. Okay, we’re going to disappear into the ether and music and roll credits and we’re done.

It also relates to how you experience it as a viewer. In the beginning you’re trying to follow this story, and then you’re becoming invested in their relationship, and by the end, it’s as if you’re not even thinking, you’re just totally in it—which is an interesting thing, to totally fall into something, to not care if you’re understanding everything, but simply committing to the feeling. With something this tone-heavy, how did you translate that from script to screen?
I know it changed a bit getting near production and being in production. I wrote a bunch of music while I was writing the script and I think I threw half of it away in the process of coming to understand what it was actually going to feel like when we saw these events take place. Things that would be explained by maybe more plot-heavy elements, like maybe there was some kind of unspoken sinuous connection between Kris and Jeff, but that was all stripped out by playing with sound and making something more subjective. And that meant the music needed to feed that. Things did change a bit, but I just wanted there to be a really strong architecture as far as the story goes, that it would hopefully be something that even if you took it away from the movie and retold the story it would be like a myth or a fable. And once the structure is solid enough, we can explore it lyrically and play with it and swim through it. So maybe you have the freedom to play with tones that way.

And it’s so experiential. I could tell someone every plot point and every detail, but it means nothing unless you’ve seen it and felt it for yourself.
That’s great to hear. I don’t think of it as a movie you have to see more than once to understand, but I hope it’s a movie that people will want to see more than once, like the way you would put on an album and have more than just a first experience. People are always asking me how it’s supposed to work, and I only have my hopes. Was it different for you seeing it multiple times?

The first time I was just really engaged in the sound and feeling from it. The next time I was trying to analyze it much more, and then the other times I just unconsciously picked up on so many small things, little editing and narrative tricks that enhance the understanding and allow you to let go and just feel it. With films that I really do love, I tend to not want to watch them again because I’m afraid some of that initial amazing feeling will fade, but that didn’t seem to happen with this.
Well, that’s wonderful.

I love the Primer soundtrack but this was a lot more intricate and all-encompassing. And it was more than just the score. The acoustics and the sound of everything—the faucet, or the ice in the cup—the smallest things sounded beautiful. How did you craft how you wanted the film to be heard?
All I know for a fact is that it’s important. I don’t know of another movie where it’s so important.

Even in the slightest moments, say, when you walk into the print shop to see Kris and the music is swelling. It’s not some big moment, it’s just there, and it elevates the scene to a point of significance.
Absolutely. The music is really important because there is so much not being said. I typically use music to subvert, but in this instance it seemed like there’s a fine line between what they’re supposed to feel and telling them what the characters feel, so I always want to lean toward the more intimate character stuff.

Film composers say that the real power comes when you begin scoring from the characters’ point of view, and using them as an emotional conduit for the sound of a scene.
Exactly. At the very end, that’s a really interesting choice for the music because it’s telling you that she’s found something good, some solace, some ending that’s positive. But I think the text of it is horrible and really melancholy. I think there was probably a version of it in my head where the music would be matched with that, explaining that this is not what it looks like, this is not pleasant, it’s wrong in some way. When we got into production and it became clear what things would feel like, it just seemed like, well, we’ll take this moment, and the story will be known, but the cinematography and the music and the way Amy performs it, we’ll let that play positive. It will be from her perspective as if she’s having a moment of resolution.

The sound is also just everything—from the plot that there’s a guy who is sampling sound and sampling emotion, but also once Walden becomes the rough material that we pick from for imagery. It didn’t even happen that way, it happened the other way around where we’re dealing with light and sound and beasts and soil and worms and tactile stuff, and you find that stuff in Walden and you want it to mirror back. So everything’s important. The sound is important, but it’s also important from a photographic point of view to be able to have enough control over the lenses to where, if I throw a light behind Amy or whoever and then come around and let the light into the lens and let it do its thing at a very open aperture. I need that because that’s the one thing on the screen that’s telling us that there’s something off about this, there’s some presence we can’t talk about yet.

This kind of mutual psychosis between people is one of my favorite themes to explore, and although it may be a natural thing that occurs when people fall in love, it takes time. But for Kris and Jeff, this was an instantaneous connection between them beyond their control. The way they speak to each other at first, he’s very terse and straight and it’s never very romantic, it just happens as if they’ve been this way forever and they’re dealing with it. There’s no slow fall into it.
There are a couple things going on. From a plot perspective, you’re looking at two people who are thrown together because their pigs are somewhere in the world being thrown together, and so this tether is making them behave in ways that don’t quite make sense at the front of their minds. So it’s almost like they’re having their faces pushed into it, and this is the way it’s supposed to go. But it doesn’t seem to be working. That’s the way I thought about it, like in a romantic comedy this is Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock or whoever, this is the part where they would be flirting and somebody would drop a book and pick it up and it goes well, and in this, this was like the event where it’s never going to go well. There’s nothing organic about this, the strings are being pulled somewhere else. So playing with that is both fun and part of the exploration. But also, I don’t know what could be more romantic than people who have been broken to their lowest point, the romantic promise that exists when you’re just destroyed.

And this love is all there is to cling to.
Yeah, that’s intoxicating. Like The Hustler, one of my favorite movies. It took me a while to realize that I don’t really care about the pool playing, I care about these two alcoholic broken people that are very holed up.

And how long were you writing this for?
Not very long. I had accumulated a lot of the story elements over a year or so and then I sort of hit a moment where I just knew. I sort of understood the emotional implications of exploring this topic and I started falling into it. I think it was two or three months from that point to having something where I said we’re going to shoot this soon.

You two had a great, very complex chemistry together. I always told myself that if I were to write a film it would be about two strangers who fall in love and realize they have these shared memories.
Wow. There’s something about that that I still haven’t quite solved. I mean, I know why it’s in there for the plot, but there’s something else going on, that concept.

In that montage that’s focused on the memories and the starlings, we see a different side to both of the characters. They’re more free and loose and a bit stripped of fear.
I know, it’s weird. A movie like this gives you some freedom, like especially like in the middle third when you’re like—alright we already did the worm stuff now we’re going to see the repercussions of it, you get to be subjective and everything about it changes. The way it’s shot, the handheld camera work, the acting, it’s fun to be able to do that. When you have a story about people’s subjective narratives, it’s like you get to do whatever you like, whatever fits the moment, however they would have seen it.

You weren’t always a filmmaker. This is something you taught yourself, but you’ve also taught yourself to be an actor and an editor and composer and now a distributor. Is it a matter of making sure you have total artistic control over everything and that it’s cohesive?
I wish there was another way to say it but yeah. I’m hoping there’s something that happens when all of the pieces are coming from the same place.

If one person writes a film, another person edits it, a director puts their vision on it, and someone scores it from how they see it, that makes it one thing. But to have it all come from one source is powerful.
That’s the hope. Even if it’s not technically as good as works from bigger collaborations, maybe there’s an earnestness to it. As an audience member I plug into things that are singular because I know that if I do the work of trying to figure out why did that happen, why did that character do that, why did that work like this, I know that there isn’t potentially an answer that isn’t going to be like a groupthink answer, or that it’s random, everything will have been purposeful, you can count on that. From a creating perspective, I just like to know that nothing is happening by chance. If something’s in there, it’s for a reason. If our poster is the two of us fully clothed in the bathtub, I like knowing that there’s a reason for it. We could have done something to make this look more commercial. There’s guns in this movie, there’s pigs and worms and gore, there’s all sorts of stuff. There are ways to sell this.

But that’s the core of the movie, this connection between them.
Exactly, it’s like a gate, in a way. It’s like, if this is something that’s interesting to you, then this is for you. If not, we’re probably not going to live up to any genre expectations.

I went into the movie completely blind. It wasn’t too long after you’d finished it and there wasn’t a trailer or poster. I think I may have read that two sentence description while waiting for the lights to go down. I’m pleased it happened that way.
That is the best way. Catching something at like two in the morning that you didn’t expect.

How do you find acting in films you direct? Did you ever think you’d be acting?
No, it just happened. I could definitely find an actor, but it becomes a function of a bunch of things. It’s one less thing you have to worry about. When you’re shooting something at this level, the fewer logistical things you have to solve, the better. So to know that there’s always going to be an actor there, that’s not a bad thing. I don’t have a lot of experience working with actors, so if I’m in it, I get more information about how things are working in a way that’s really difficult to communicate. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the playing out of the story. It’s just really fun.

There was so much time between Primer and Upstream Color. I know you were working on other things, but do you think there was something that changed in you between then and now? Because the feel of Primer and Upstream Color is so completely different. That sense of architecture is still there, but this is so much more about feeling intermingled with that.
I think they’re very far removed from each other. But the big thing I was trying to get made, A Topiary, I spent a lot of time on it, I was really invested in it and I really had my heart broken by—not being rejected or getting a no—but just spinning my wheels for so long and not getting anything going. I spent so much time on it and there’s just so much that’s been done as far as shot lists and effects tests and music that in a way, I feel like I did make the movie. I just can’t show it to anybody, I don’t have a way to show it. And that would have been maybe a bridge between the two films, maybe it would make a little bit more organic sense because it’s pretty sweeping and emotional as well—not what Upstream Color is, but it would have been a midpoint.

Are you concerned about what the audience thinks? How do you expect people to react to this film?
The people it’s for are going to eventually understand that it exists and they’ll key into it. And I think that there are people who don’t quite know that they’re into this—I didn’t always like the type of films that I like, I came to understand that they had a different goal in mind and something else going on and I really enjoy that. So I know it’s a good work and I don’t think it’s so obtuse and crazy that no one will ever respond to. It’s tough because when you write something you can write it and put it in the corner of your room and no one will ever see it, and it almost may have never existed, or you can go to the other side and make something that everybody loves and you can make a billion dollars but maybe it doesn’t matter in ten years and will just go away. So I think this is a really earnest effort to do something that has a chance of being important or relevant for a while.

And you edited the film with David Lowery, how did that process go? Did you two have a lot of interaction?
I had this idea in my head that I would be editing concurrently while shooting. And that sort of worked for a little while but I was not sleeping and it was a round-the-clock thing and I was falling further and further behind. So I had some of it put together, at least enough to show how it was supposed to unfold, and he saved my life basically. He came in and took a look at what I had and we had a conversation about how different parts of the film are meant to feel and unfold and then I would show him my really gross storyboards I keep on the side of the script. Basically he went to work and he instilled so much confidence and had no ego whatsoever and just blew me away. Very quickly I got to the point where I just trusted him and his sensibilities. There’s such an honesty with him and I felt like I could be honest. One of the most valuable things I have in the world with David is I know that he can do this or I could do this—we could each spend a significant amount of time working on an edit, show it to the other, and it’s comfortable enough for them to go, I appreciate that but it’s not going to work and the other person goes, okay great and he knows I respect him and I think he respects me. That’s so valuable.

Does writing come naturally to you, or do you have to really work at pulling forth a story?
I feel like I’m on the cusp of something different now. There’s what I used to do and there’s what I’m doing now. I’m writing something that’s further going down this path.

You’ve said that you developed a language with this film and you want to keep exploring it.
I do. I just feel there’s emotional language. It just comes back to this really simple idea of having this architecture and being able to explore it lyrically. But it’s really cemented, so that’s what this next thing is. Now when I write, there’s something weird going on, and I don’t know how to explain it, but there are these images coming up and those bits of music coming up and they’re somehow connected. It doesn’t feel like I’m writing a story sometimes, it feels like there is story that exists and I’m chipping away everything that it isn’t, and then it’s just sort of there. But I don’t know exactly what that is anymore because I don’t want to pretend like I’m some whimsical guy throwing paint at the wall or whatever, that doesn’t feel like what it is but it doesn’t feel like this extremely calculated thing once you’re done with the architecture.

Do you write music as you write the script?
Yup. It’s fun. I don’t know how to play an instrument, but there are lots of cool tools to use.

Why did you choose to distribute the film yourself? Was that another way to not have to ask permission and keep the reins?
It was complicated how that choice came about. Things are different now than they used to be. The sheer fact that most people experience films at home in some way, it’s like that is something that’s not the most expensive thing in the world to do. So the idea of getting paired up with a distributor, it’s becoming harder and harder to hand something over to them and feel like, well they’re the only ones who have the resources to do this and there’s more pieces of the puzzle that are difficult. Booking theaters is not easy, but it’s possible.

And finally, why do you do this? What is it that you love about cinema that drives you?
I love narrative and how it exists and why it exists and how it’s meant to be used. You can come up with a paragraph full of some truth, something that’s universal, some exploration, and it can be really informative, but it’s likely to not be that interesting. But you can spin a story, you can tell a narrative, and you can infuse it with this stuff, and if you’ve done your job right, you haven’t just captured somebody’s attention long enough to take them on this journey, you’ve also figured out something about the exploration through the act of the story because that’s what we key into. So I love narrative and I think that film is the height of narrative, and I don’t know what 100 years from now looks like, but from right now, to be able to communicate non-verbally but still explore, I don’t know what would be better than that. That’s what I love about it. It’s like you’re feeding right into the main line of how we experience things.

See Upstream Color this Thursday at ND/NF or at IFC Center starting April 5th.

The Best Films to See This Weekend Around New York or From Your Couch

With this "historic" blizzard looming over us, there’s quite a good chance that you will not be leaving your house this weekend. But that’s such a shame, considering throughout New York there’s a plethora of incredible films screening and come on, you don’t want to miss out on the chance to see some of these on the big screen. There’s Abbas Kiarostami’s fanscinating Close-Up tonight, David Fincher’s cult-favorite Fight Club at midnight today and tomorrow, Bertolluci’s Before the Revolution—and plenty more. But whatever your preference, there’s still a decent chance that you’ll have to find cinematic solace in the comfort of your own home this weekend. So, in lieu of getting too thrilled about leaving the house, I’ve cooked up a list of not only the best films showing around the city, but the best of what’s streaming on Netflix and Hulu, along with clips from what critics had to say about each picture to give you a taste of what you’re in for. Enjoy.

 

Close-Up at The Film Society of Lincoln Center

"No doubt the film is disturbing: its portrait of Sabzian, described by one acquaintance as a “mythomaniac,” shows us an eloquent autodidact who is nonetheless deeply troubled, more a prisoner of cinema than an emblem of its salvific power. Yet it is the self-aware, suffering Sabzian of Close-up who touched the world’s imagination and survives as an icon of the Iranian cinema’s humanistic ideals, its faith in the dreams that offer avenues out of the world’s worst oppressions." —Godfrey Cheshire

Reprise Streaming on Netflix

"An exuberant, exhilaratingly playful testament to being young and hungry — for life and meaning and immortality, and for other young and restless bodies — “Reprise” is a blast of unadulterated movie pleasure. Made under the self-knowing influence of the early French New Wave, before Godard discovered Mao and Truffaut lost his groove, the film wears its influences without a trace of anxiety, in part, I imagine, because its precociously talented Norwegian director, Joachim Trier, doesn’t worry about old-fashioned conceits like creative patricide. You don’t have to kill your fathers, just learn from them."— Manohla Dargis 

Blow Out at Nitehawk Cinema

"No less a virtuoso than cinematographer Zsigmond told me this year that De Palma “is one of the greatest visual filmmakers around.” He still marvels at the work they did in Blow Out: “Think about the 360-degree circular dolly shot near the end of the movie: we had to light practically the whole seaport of Philadelphia with the July 4 fireworks behind Nancy Allen and John Travolta.” For Kael and for legions of true believers, De Palma has, to use a sixties phrase, “kept the faith.” This man of many parts—realist, fantasist, ironist, tragedian—has never fused them more dynamically or poignantly than in Blow Out." —Michael Sragow

Three Colors: Red Streaming on Hulu

"This feeling of mysterious presence reflects the way Kieślowski spoke of the narrative of Red. He described the story, and particularly the “missed” relationship between Valentine and the judge, in ways that suggest that the world has a hidden design, albeit one prone to flaws. For him, “the essential question the film asks is: Is it possible to repair a mistake that was committed somewhere high above?” The idea that there is an invisible but fallible authority presiding over the world within the film naturally invites us to consider the director himself in that role."—Georgina Evans

The Tenant at IFC Center

"There is then an ironic ending that will come as a complete surprise to anyone who has missed every episode of "Night Gallery" or the CBS Mystery Theater. It turns out that — but never mind, never mind. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard an audience talk back to the ending of a horror film. "The Tenant" might have made a decent little 20-minute sketch for one of those British horror anthology films in which Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Vincent Price pick up a little loose change. As a film by Polanski, it’s unspeakably disappointing." —Roger Ebert

Primer Streaming on Netflix and Hulu

"Whether these will add up to anything more than a cerebral diversion is hard to say. Mr. Carruth has invented something fascinating — a way of capturing, on film, some of the pleasure and peril of scientific inquiry — and you don’t need a time machine to predict that as he goes on, he will discover exciting new ways to put it to use."—A.O.

Fight Club at IFC Center

"Fincher is a visionary who keeps Fight Club firing on all cylinders, raising hallucinatory hell in ways too satisfying toi spoil here. As for the dissenters, "I Am Jack’s Complete Lack of Surprise". Fincher’s refusal to moralize and reassure has possed off the watchdogs of virtue. Let ’em bark. They think anything alive is dangerous. Fight Club pulld you in, challenges your prejudices, rocks your world and leaves you laughing in the face of an abyss. It’s alive, all right. It’s also an uncompromising American classic." —Peter Travers

Wings of Desire Streaming on Hulu

"Is the plot arc of Wings of Desire a cry against cinema, even as it equates watching with love? Or does it suggest, to the choir, only a more engaged participation for us, the give-and-take of art film as opposed to the utterly passive experience of Hollywood dross, the Godardian sense that cinema is not an escape from life but life itself? Once Damiel goes human, awakening in the no-man’s-land between the east and west sections of the wall, we as viewers may have an experience akin to Greta Garbo’s after she’d seen the Beast in Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast transform into the clean-shaven Jean Marais: “Give me back my Beast.”—Michael Atkinson

Killer of Sheep at Museum of the Moving Image

"But there is more to neo-realism than formalist gestures; context counts too, and much like the characters in Rossellini’s “Open City,” Stan and his family are casualties of war. This may be Mr. Burnett’s most radical truth-telling. In “Killer of Sheep,” the characters’ identities as African-Americans are material and existential givens, while poverty is the equal-opportunity destroyer." —Manohla Dargis

The Night Porter Streaming on Hulu

"The Night Porter depicts not only the political continuity between wartime Nazism and 1957 Austria, but also the psychological continuity of characters locked into compulsive repetition of the past."

Before the Revolution at Anthology Film Archives

"What makes the film worth reviving is its stylistic elan, some channeled through Godard, Fellini and Antonioni, but all fresh and vigorous: its jump cuts and dynamic editing; its expressive, freestyling take on neo-realism; its powerful lighting. The soundtrack, by a youngish Ennio Morricone, is limpid. And Aldo Scavardo’s photography, especially during a wonderful ode to the beauty of the River Po, is unforgettable." — Sukhdev Sandhu

Revanche Streaming on Hulu

"Spielmann is interested in aspects of life that exceed simple comprehension. Fathoming the interconnections between disparate people, he emphasizes realistic perception and spiritual discovery. He told an interviewer: “Loneliness is probably an inextricable part of our modern lives, and yet I consider it an illusion. We always think of ourselves as being separate from the world, and in this way we deceive ourselves. This separation is just an invention of our imagination; in many ways, we are constantly and directly interwoven in a larger whole. Loneliness is an attribute of our limited awareness, not of life itself.”—Armond White

The Godfather at Landmark Sunshine

"Although the movie is three hours long, it absorbs us so effectively it never has to hurry. There is something in the measured passage of time as Don Corleone hands over his reins of power that would have made a shorter, faster moving film unseemly. Even at this length, there are characters in relationships you can’t quite understand unless you’ve read the novel. Or perhaps you can, just by the way the characters look at each other."—Roger Ebert

My Night at Maud’s Streaming on Hulu

"Rohmer’s films offer us an exceptionally vivid picture of how we navigate the twists and turns that life throws our way on a daily basis. “All the pleasure of life is in general ideas,” wrote Oliver Wendell Holmes. “But all the use of life is in specific solutions.” No artist has expressed this dichotomy more eloquently, or lovingly, than Eric Rohmer."—Kent Jones

Shane Carruth Reveals ‘Upstream Color’ Details and First Trailer

It’s been almost a decade since Shane Carruth’s perplexing debut science-fiction film, Primer, and fans have been waiting with baited breath to see what the writer/director/actor/composer/producer would do next and just where he had been hiding all this time. But in just a few days, his new work, Upstream Color will finally have its premiere at Sundance and leave audiences as propoundly effected and bewildered in his sophomore effort.

Personally, I have watched the film five times—in a three day period. What can I say? I lack self-control and I was completely enthralled. But as for mass audiences, so far only a couple of teasers have emerged online and simply hint at the exhilarating and confounding nature his complex drama. Again, Carruth takes on the role of director, writer, producer, cinematographer, composer, co-editor, and actor which begs the question: how can someone be so talented? Perhaps that’s why we’ve had to wait a good nine years since his last release.

In a recent interview with LA Times, Carruth stated, "The people that this is for, it will be for." And following that, the log line for the film proves just as abstract:  "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." It’s a tactile film in which the sounds and textures help to engulf you in its layered and complex narrative that’s as much about the interdependence and madness of love as it is about our inescapable connection to nature and the world around us. 

Financing the film with his own money and contributions from friends, Carruth "hopes by releasing the film himself, he can position it as he sees fit. ‘It’s not necessarily about revenue or that I don’t think it will sell; it’s that I get to frame this thing exactly the way I think it needs to be framed…’I get to continue narrating through marketing, releasing teasers and artwork that you could make the case aren’t the most commercial ways to sell this but they absolutely are in tune with the way I think of the film and what I want to communicate.’

The LA Times writer points out Carruth’s Malickian absence and reemergence, but also in that vein, there’s a very poetic nature to Carruth’s work despite a rich sense of structure and science to it. Even from the teasers you can sense that Upstream Color  proves to be emotionally stirring in ways you cannot quite recognize at first glance, and possesses a spirituality that hits the heart moreso than just the mind. According to the article, he "plans to be shooting another film, currently titled "The Modern Ocean," by this summer. "I now know what I will be doing. I will be doing this," Carruth said. "I will be making films and I’m going to keep working, no matter what I have to do. And I don’t plan to ever ask for permission from anybody."

While you’ll most likely have to wait until April to see the film in major cities, for now, just listen to the subtly beautiful Primer score and get your senses excited for Upstream Color.

 

Revealed: Kim Kardashian’s Greatest Makeup Secret

Kim Kardashian has got that look: that flawless, sculpted look – and we’re not just talking her butt. How do her cheekbones look like two isosceles triangles?  And how does her face radiate like a celestial sunrise? The answer, of course, is contouring. And we have our own international hair and makeup artist Leah Bennett – whose work has graced the runways of London, New York, and Australia’s Fashion Week – to break down the celebrity technique into simple steps for any skin tone. Find out what beauty products – including what she calls “Kardashian & JLo in-a-bottle” – are best for the job. Here are the secrets, in Leah’s own words.

1. Get good tools. Leah recommends:

  • The Mac 168 large angled brush ($38: "This can be used for blush and bronzer, and also helps to blend away any harsh lines.” The Mac 191 square foundation brush ($33): “You’ll use this to apply your flawless base and camoflouge the dark and light tones of contouring." The Mac 195 concealer brush ($23): “This sharp concealer brush gets into the crannies, and creates definition in smaller areas of the face, such as the bridge of the nose.”

2. Clean your face, and apply a primer.
“The primer minimizes large pores and holds the makeup in place. I like to use Make Up For Ever HD Microperfecting Primer 7 Pink ($34) as it brightens the skin, on top of all the other fantastic benefits of a normal primer. You can never overdo healthy-looking skin.”

3.     Add a concealer. 

  • "Depending on your skin coloring, you are going to want a dark concealer and a white concealer. I find a cream texture works best as the pigment is more dramatic and longer-lasting. Even with an oily skin tone, creams are suitable since you will always finish a look with a loose-setting powder anyway, which will keep your face looking fresh.”
  • The Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage Concealer ($38): “You get two colors: one light and one warm tone.”
  • The Bobbi Brown Foundation Stick ($40): “I use this to achieve the darkest color, as the creamy consistency creates instant drama on the face.”

4.     Apply the method.

  • “Suck in your cheekbones and, from the top of the ear to the middle of the eye, draw a line with the darkest color of your concealer.
  • Take that same color, and apply it from the top of where your eyebrow starts along the ridge of your nose to your nostril. This creates the look of a smaller, thinner nose. If want to disguise a larger nose, take the color on the tip of the nose and spread it out.
  • Then, using your lightest concealer, swipe out under the eye, all the way to your temple. Take that same light color, swipe the bridge of the nose, and take the color all the way between the eyebrows. Highlight underneath the eyebrows and the cupid bow of the upper lip. The finished result should be contrasting, like a lion.”

5.     Now for the fun part:

  • “Use a foundation brush and base to blend everything in."
  •  Leah recommends: The Make Up For Ever HD Foundation ($40): “It’s suitable for all skin types since it comes with a range of colors. It’s used for TV and photography work, and celebs love it. Using light brush strokes, blend using the foundation, until there are no visible lines showing. Let the base dry and reapply a second coat. I like a medium coverage.”

6.     Bronze away. Leah recommends:

  • The Nars Bronzing Powder in Laguna ($38): “I love this bronzer. It’s a golden tan without any orange tint, and it doesn’t oxidize and turn orange on the face.”
  •  Using the Mac 168 large angled brush, swipe the temples, cheekbones, and the underneath-the-chin area. I like to call this technique the ‘E,’ since it’s the pattern created on the outer part of the face. 
  • Then add a soft blush color. I adore the Tarte Cheek Stain ($28). Make circle motions with the brush on the apples of the cheek.”

7.     The finishing touches:

  • “By now, you can see how defined your face is, but to make this look really pop, my secret weapon is the Benefit High Beam Highlighter ($28). This is your Kim Kardashian-JLo-in-a-bottle. It contrasts against the darker bronzer, and reflects and radiates light, creating a flawless ‘celebrity’ canvas. This product comes with its own brush, so apply it around the eye and temple – on your cheekbones, and below and above your eyebrows –  creating a C shape around the eye.
  • Finally, lightly dust your face with the Make Up For Ever HD Microfinish Powder ($32). This will leave no color or extra layer of makeup, but simply remove shine and hold makeup in place.
  • These advanced tips can be used for every look, whether it is coupled with a smoky eye or a red lip. Contouring sets you apart from the everyday girl, and transforms you into an instant celebrity. Voila.”

Love what Leah Bennett has to say? So do we. Check out her official website here