Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Current Cinema 20

Upstream Color

As noted a few weeks ago here on this blog, Derek Cianfrance was proclaimed as one of the best emerging talents on the scene today. Shane Carruth is quickly rising on that list as well after seeing his sophomore effort, "Upstream Color". Although this film doesn't require the grids and down-the-rabbit-hole logic of his previous film, "Primer", "Upstream Color" is no less a challenging work. Cross-cutting between the tenuous relationship between a man (Carruth himself) and woman (Amy Siemetz) who meet on a Dallas DART rail and, of all things, a mysterious pig farm, "Upstream Color" weaves a completely engrossing and heady narrative. It could be called pretentious and a host of other things usually attached to the more obtuse art house fare, but there's real depth, sincerity and a downright stunning opening and closing sequence (virtually wordless) that propels Carruth's lofty ambitions into something close to a masterpiece. Carruth, who also wrote the film and scored its trancey synth-pop soundtrack, is a jack of all trades and deserves the license to pursue whatever projects he desires in the future. Just a marvelous, consistently dazzling film that, I understand, is being self distributed by Carruth and his production company. See this film the minute it hits your theater.

The Lords of Salem

After being wowed by musician turned filmmaker Rob Zombie's debut film "House of 1,000 Corpses", his subsequent works have been a bit of a letdown. Granted, there's no other modern horror filmmaker attempting to infuse their works with the avant garde quite like Zombie, and his films are never less than interesting. With "The Lords of Salem", the same holds true. Full of disturbing, experimental images and surrounded by some grotesque scenes of nude blood bathing and a devil baby that's gotta be seen to be believed, "The Lords of Salem" never gels as a narrative. Starring his wife, Sherri Moon, "The Lords of Salem" is all about a coven of witches trying to re-enter the life of the modern Salem women. Moon gives an able performance, although she (and everyone else in the film) are sketches of characters, given a hobbled past (drug addiction) and little else. Portions of the film are hard to take seriously, and with Zombie's penchant for all things b-movie and beyond, one senses this is probably his most playful effort to date. If Zombie ever fashions a really well-written piece, I think he can pull out something special.

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