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.
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