In Poser, one wonders if protagonist Lennon Gates knows what she’s doing as she slowly takes in, absorbs, and assimilates the work of the underground musicians around her. On the one hand, Lennon is so soft-spoken, so awkward and without direction or guile, that one couldn’t possibly perceive her as the predator of the concrete jungle she wanders in search of art. On the other, as we see the depths of delusion and emptiness that exist in Lennon, we can’t help but be reminded of all the dangerously hungry people we’ve known, of everyone whose need for authenticity makes them suspicious on a gut-deep level.
That’s the power of Poser, the dark, music-centric drama from Noah Dixon and Ori Segev – the viewer sympathizes with its human coming-of-age story, even as they bristle at the black hole inside of its main character.
As a denizen of her city’s indie music scene, Lennon says and does all the right things. She’s recording a podcast with bands she discovers in records stores. She does her interviews digitally, then re-records them analog, because analog sounds better. She writes lyrics but doesn’t perform often. Sounds nice, right? But the more we follow Lennon, the more we realize that she’s not just appreciating the art around her, she’s appropriating it, in a cold, hungry attempt to glean some kind of identity from those who did the hard work of creating one for themselves. And as her obsession with underground pop duo Damn The Witch Siren grows, Lennon’s desire to be more than no one reveals a side of her that’s both attractive and ominous.
You know the characters of Poser, even if you don’t. The death-rock bands and slam poets and sex-pop duos exist in a cloud around us via Instagram and Bandcamp. In that respect, the world that the movie invites us into feels deeply familiar, and Lennon’s desire to make herself a part of it all is similarly relatable. Watching her steal others’ life’s work with a click of her phone, or learn to be an interesting person through Google searches and YouTube videos – how to make a podcast, what is performance art – inspires a clench of sympathy in our modern age of instant-access art. How the film is shot also does a solid job of reflecting this; everything is close-up, pockmarked a little clunky, tangible in an embarrassing way. Maybe Lennon’s full of shit, but so is the veneer on all these hipster musicians she’s trying to become.
More than anything, it’s Sylvie Mix’s performance as Lennon that lifts Poser over other quiet dramas like it. Her ability to make this character so fascinating yet inherently repellent is felt from the very first scene onward. Even as Lennon falls in with the cool crowd, and we begin to recognize our own thorny social indoctrination in her story, the character gives off an inability to trust that’s even scarier because it’s hard to entirely hate. A worthy comp is Jake Gyllenhaal in 2014’s gut-wrenching paparazzi horror film Nightcrawler, but even Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom doesn’t quite hit this level of discomfort. Bloom’s a creep, lashing out at the world with an icy stare; Mix’s Lennon, rehearsing her life in search of meaning and followers, might be what we see in the mirror. The moment where she’s revealed as being a total fraud makes the viewer sweat under their own imposter-syndrome spotlight.
If Poser has a major flaw, it’s that at 87 minutes, it is somehow still too long. The camera often hangs on experimental musician Z Wolf for what feels like an eternity, and there are only so many times we can see Lennon standing stonily under flashing strobe lights before we think, Right, we get it. A lot of the moments of quiet intensity also feel repetitive, as do some of the band performances; they’re obviously meant to build atmosphere and tension, but instead they come off as indulgent. This is a cool hour-and-a-half movie, but it could’ve been a tight, perfect 40-minute short film.
To be fair, Poser isn’t a movie you watch at a party, or talk during. It’s not a film with an easy narrative that rewards you with a big, cathartic climax. This is an emotional trip, a slow burn that’ll raise your hackles and tie your stomach in a knot. That said, if you’re an art kid who’s ready to shake off the polished superheroes that every other movie piles on top of you, Poser is an engrossing descent into what it means to be real in an era of digital assets and instantly-streamed passion. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s about you, with your playlists and your podcasts and your local scene. You’re one of the real people…right?
Poser premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2021. It hits theaters this Friday, June 24th.
MetalSucks – Review: Poser Is a Harrowing, Desperate Tale of Wanting to Be Somebody | MetalSucks
Author: Emperor Rhombus
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June 23, 2022