Part of what made “Primer” so remarkable and Carruth such an intriguing figure was his apparent ability to do it all, a one-man-band approach to the more typically collaborative medium of feature filmmaking. It also made his subsequent silence of nearly a decade long seem that much louder.
With “Upstream Color,” Carruth is again director, writer, producer, cinematographer, composer, co-editor and actor. In the movie, a young woman (Amy Seimetz) is abducted and seemingly brainwashed via an organic material harvested from a specific flower. She later meets a man (Carruth), and after the two fall for each other, they come to realize that he may also have been subjected to the same process.
Now 40, Carruth still has a boyish handsomeness and quiet, intense charm about him, as well as a certain controlled asceticism — underscored when he ordered a salad with no dressing and a glass of water during a recent lunch. He is somewhat tight-lipped about what he was doing during his time away from the spotlight. He speaks of an ambitious sci-fi project called “A Topiary” as “the thing I basically wasted my whole life on.”
The frustration of that unrealized project seems to have spurred his autodidact polymath instinct to learn something new — how to market and release his own film — rather than depend on others to do things for him. So he’s adding distributor to his long list of jobs on “Upstream Color.”
With a pair of teaser clips already out online, a trailer will be released ahead of the film’s premiere Monday in Park City, Utah, with plans for a New York opening April 5. (A few select additional festival appearances and a handful of surprise pop-up screenings across the country will follow the film’s Sundance debut, and a Los Angeles opening is slated for mid-April.) The film will become available on digital and cable platforms soon after.
“The people that this is for, it will be for,” Carruth said of the audience he wants for “Upstream Color,” which he describes as “an earnest film,” explaining his desire to sell the film for what it is and not what a more conventional distributor might try to make it out to be. “Everything about the choice to do the distribution is about contextualizing” the movie, Carruth said during an interview in Los Angeles.