For the 2013 New Zealand International Film Festival I figured I’d try and keep some kind of a review diary covering each of the 20 or so films I’m planning to see. It’s going to be a busy couple of weeks.

Upstream-colorAfter taking a day off from NZIFF screenings, I was most excited about getting to Upstream Color, knowing very little about it other than vague chatter about how mind-bending it is. Nobody seems to be able to get a handle on it, but I thought maybe my perceptive mind would be capable of decoding Shane Carruth’s sophomore effort.

Unsurprisingly, I don’t have any answers. There’s something about water, paper, worms, pigs, a woman and a man, and some kind of hypnosis based scam. In the midst of Hollywood blockbuster season, Upstream Color is the most intellectually challenging piece of work to come along in quite some time. It’s a beautifully cinematic sensory experience; a sparsely plotted, fluid piece of haptic filmmaking that will confuse a lot but be cherished by a few.

The only certainty I came out of Upstream Color with was that it grabbed me more than perhaps anything else I’ve seen all year. Cinema as cryptic as this treads a very fine line, but never for a second was I frustrated by my lack of understanding. The audience is simply abandoned in Carruth’s singular, uncompromised vision, and there are few if any signposts or landmarks to guide us along the way.

I haven’t been this satisfyingly bemused since first seeing David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, a film which is so far removed from convention but offers up its mastery with successive viewing, and has become one of my absolute favourites. It’s too early to say whether Upstream Color will bloom to the same level of masterpiece, but I just can not wait to watch it again. And again.

And again.