Have you ever met artists who are just plain insufferable? I’m not talking about the kind of artists that go on at length about their craft and the passion they have behind it. I’m talking about listening to an artist go on for several minutes about how he was inspired to write music because he considered that all living beings are made of atoms and that’s somehow deeply beautiful and poetic. The kind of artists who are quick to say that you don’t understand their craft because you’re too mainstream, man. You know, hipsters. Poser features many of these people.
There are moments in Poser I was deeply fascinated by the story it was trying to tell, one of obsession and acceptance. Then there were moments that I wanted to laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of it and how serious the movie was framing these ludicrous scenes. Poser is a movie about how no matter how strange or absurd the community is, we want to be a part of that mob at any cost because being “out” is akin to being dead. It’s a movie about an introvert trying desperately to become an extrovert but lying to themselves and their peers in the process.
Ultimately, Poser is a movie about how we’re all in search of an identity and how that journey can lead us to make all of the wrong decisions.
Director: Ori Segev, Noah Dixon
Release Date: June 10, 2021 (Tribeca Film Festival)
Our story revolves around Lennon (Sylvie Mix), a quiet introvert who lives in Columbus, Ohio and desperately wants to be a part of its Indie music scene. She tries to go to all of the shows (but is usually locked out), she attempts to get in social circles by interviewing people for her podcast no one listens to, and she mostly just sticks to the walls whenever she has a chance to do either. She wants nothing more than to be a part of that world, and when she meets Bobbi Kitten, a real-life Columbus native and musician, she may finally have her chance to get in.
I think what I find most fascinating about Poser is Lennon herself. Speaking as an introvert myself, I fully understand the mentality that she has. We’re naturally shy and tend to keep to ourselves. Unlike me though, it’s clear that Lennon wants to break out of that cycle and become something more than what she is. At times it feels like she’s trying to become a square when she’s always going to be a triangle, even if it means sawing off her sides to make herself fit into that square-shaped hole.
Whether it be her trying to imitate Bobbi’s mannerisms or hanging out with Bobbi’s friends, it’s pretty clear that Lennon is a bit obsessive in her desire to be accepted. At first, it’s quaint, seeing Lennon awkwardly navigate a music scene that seems almost alien to her, but then it takes on a more darker and menacing tone as the film progresses. It’s subtle mind you, but it’s there. And I kind of like that subtlety that the film has. It never has characters outright stating their feelings, but giving us context clues that motivate their desires, like how Bobbi not liking fish motivates some of Lennon’s awful, personal changes. Make no mistake, Lennon is not a good person, but she’s a good character.
There’s also an air of authenticity regarding the depiction of the various bands, poets, and performance artists in Poser. Like I said earlier, Bobbi Kitten is an actual musician, one who just released a new album only a few short weeks ago. The other artists featured too are most likely actual bands and performers that live in Columbus. Lennon narrates that it’s a cultural mecca for Indie rock and artists and by the end, you can almost believe it. I say almost because I have no real frame of reference for those scenes or folkways, but to people who go see (or used to see) bands on a weekly basis on weekends, this will probably ring true to you in a way that other films won’t.
Poser is clear about how it wants to depict the identity of its characters. It wants to get down to its various truths, sometimes more effectively than others. Bobbi is true to herself but refuses to let others know what that truth is. Lennon wants people to think she’s true when she’s anything but. The performers in Columbus are all true in their genuine love for music and art. Sometimes that truth is beautiful. Sometimes that truth is poetic. And sometimes that truth involves watching people replicate birth cycles in an abandoned warehouse while others stare at tarps with red lines drawn across them.
Yeah, while I can love and respect the messages that Poser gives, sometimes it gets a bit too out there for conventional tastes. Hearing artists describe themselves into increasingly specific sub-genres of music can be a bit ridiculous, but I’m not sure if the movie wants you to laugh at it or not. If it is, then that’s kind of defeating the whole point of lovingly depicting the Indie scene of Columbus if it’s only for ridicule. If it’s serious, then it’s giving off a hipster oeuvre that is exactly the kind of attitude that I hate in most Indie music. Its muddied tonal shifts only occur at a few points, but they’re so jarring that they’re all I can think about at times.
But by the time we reach the end, I felt like I gained something by watching Poser. Was it respect for the art that these performers put in? Was it the themes of identity that were done excellently and escalated at a satisfying pace? Or was it the relatability to some of the situations in my everyday life that makes me feel seen? Maybe it’s all of those things, but I ultimately left Poser very satisfied and eager to see what these first-time directors and performers do next.