Teaser for Shane Carruth’s “Upstream Color” Invokes Looks of Bewilderment

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Seriously, that is the only word I can use to describe the teaser for director/writer/producer/star Shane Carruth’s new film “Upstream Color,” which is due in theaters in March 2013:

It makes me feel the same way that I did when I had a project for my Introduction to Art class in college and I had to visit the Philadelphia Art Museum. I would stare at abstract works of art, pretending to understand them, and completely lie my way through an answer when asked to describe what I saw.

Amazingly, it’s the same way I felt when watching Carruth’s first film, 2004’s sci-fi, head-scratcher “Primer.”

That film had something to do with two guys who would found a way to travel through time using a device that they kept in a storage unit. I know, right. It doesn’t get any less confusing when you watch it, either.

This teaser, as far as I can discern, is not about time travel – I think. However, there are two quotes that bookend the trailer that explain, well, not much.

The first quote contains the cryptic voiceover of our supposed main character. “I have to apologize, I was born with a disfigurement where my head was made of the same material as the sun.” Oh, so it’s a monster movie or a super hero flick, right?

Uh, no. Unless you find the following images particularly monstrous or super: folded hands in a recliner, swirling ice in a glass pitcher, the backs of people’s heads, guns being fired, eyes opening, somebody holding a pig, a goggle-wearing girl swimming in a pool and some dude angrily chopping a skinny tree.

The final quote does nothing to explain these seemingly random images with another voiceover, now female, spouting something like, “They won’t…” or “It won’t come out.” I felt like pulling a Kurt Russell/Jack Burton from “Big Trouble in Little China” and yelling at the screen, “What?! What’ll come out no more?!”

Now, I’m not saying that the movie is going to be bad, as “Primer” was interesting in its existential way and this movie seems to be following suit. That being said, if you happen to like your movie all wrapped up in a tight, easy-to-understand bow, then I’m not so sure you should be cancelling your future plans to check out “Iron Man 3” to go see this film instead.

But, if you’re the kind of person that likes their art a little bleak and hard to comprehend (I believe the proper term is “thought-provoking”) then this is your film. Apparently, there is a strong audience for this brand of art house-approved cinema, as – according to the teaser – “Upstream Color” was an “Official Selection” at the 2013 Sundance Festival.

If it is your type of flick, then you’re probably friends with the guy that stood behind me at the Art Museum, claiming to understand the Jackson Pollock paintings.

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