Art

‘POSER’ Is the Eerie, Sinister Indie Psychodrama Everyone Should See

The film Poserdirected by Ori Segev and Noah Dixon, opens with the main character, Lennon Gates (played by Sylvie Mix), standing shyly near three artists who are analyzing a painting at an art gallery. After the three artists depart, Lennon unfolds a magazine to reveal that her phone was recording their conversation.

This peculiar opening scene sets the tone for Posera powerful, sinister, and psychedelic coming-of-age film set against the backdrop of the Columbus, Ohio, DIY music and art scene, where showcases can happen in official galleries or in basements or homes.

At the film’s start, Lennon is an awkward, but somewhat likable main character. She wears headphones at DIY shows and records sounds, which she notes as her obsession. Lennon desperately admires the artists she observes in the community. “When I’m at these shows, I see how music connects people,” she says. “I see these artists on stage and they have something that I don’t. A certain kind of tenacity that almost feels super human.”

Initially, Lennon’s admiration appears innocent as she embarks on the process of starting a podcast to showcase the seeky, underground music scene throughout the Old North and Downtown area of ​​Columbus. She meekly interviews artists, struggling to appear charismatic—something that’s amplified by the way she is shot to look visually isolated from the musician she is speaking to.

Lennon struggles to adapt to social environments, trying to find the “tenacity” that she admires in local artists—even going as far as to mimic them. The deeper she embeds herself in the scene, the more her mental state unravels.

She begins to imitate the behavior of her friends more. She becomes obsessed with maintaining her appearance as a shy but emerging artist. As her demeanor shifts, Poser evolves into a psychodrama, building an uneasy intensity as Lennon becomes more and more enigmatic. The DIY scene presents an innocent, almost dreamily romantic backdrop—so why do these shifts in Lennon seem so unsettling?

As an artist that grew up in Cleveland and became entangled in the Columbus art scene once I moved there in 2018, it’s striking to see a landscape that I know depicted on screen. The moody night shots and strobe-lit dance floors feel just right. Lennon’s transformation is an integral piece of the film’s magic: the artist’s pursuit to portray a place or emotion with honesty or brutal intention. Sylvie Mix, an artist born and raised in Columbus, depicts Lennon with electric intensity.

“I found it was easier than I expected to turn the character on and off— I thought it would take a lot more time and energy to transition in and out of that mind state of alienation,” Mix said in an interview with The Daily Beast , “It was also much more of a collaborative process than I expected. They really let me fill out the character in my own way and considered and respected my thoughts and ideas, which I think ultimately is what allowed Lennon to be as human—and weird—as she is.”

When speaking with The Daily Beast about the film’s reception at premieres around the world, like 2021’s Tribeca Film Festival, co-director Dixon said, “I’ve been so surprised that people with no connection to Ohio are fans of this film. I figured we’d get support from Columbus, but I was not expecting to screen the film in NY, LA, England, Spain, Germany etc. It’s awesome seeing all the love and attention towards Columbus and the talented musicians we have here.”

A driving force of Poser is its ability to visualize a local landscape through its bold mixing of new and old forms of media, which plays perfectly to our contemporary era of mass nostalgia. The film uses local settings known to the Columbus DIY/art scene like 934 Gallery or local bars to give a realistic perspective of a city while also imagining new settings.

“What was easy about filming here is that we know almost all of the locations as we were writing the film. It was fun to figure out which locations would give the vibe we wanted,” said co-director Segev, “We also set dressed some other locations to mimic places we partied at—DIY venues and our early-twenties lifestyle. We tried to stay true to our experiences in the city and bring the best out of the locations we love.”

This sense of true environment is mixed with enigmatic characters, like Bobbi Kitten of Damn the Witch Siren, who challenges Lennon to be more confident in her desire to be an artist. Their friendship, for a period of time, is a catalyst for Lennon to open up and attempt to write songs until Lennon’s creative block becomes too much.

On a cinematic level, the film excels at depicting Lennon’s sense of isolation, placing her in an opposite frame to those that she is interviewing and juxtaposing those shots with lively VHS footage of her hanging out with new artist friends. Visual art depicting animals or figures split in half appears throughout the film, alluding to its theme of how creative duality can transform into total consumption.

Poser‘s choice to use Lennon’s podcast as framing for her coming of age is especially resonant, given that the last two years of COVID-19 lockdown led so many more people to discover podcasts.

Lennon’s podcast operates as a way for us to see how she portrays herself to others: a shy girl struggling to find a place to belong.

As a coming of age, Poser is a daring depiction of Lennon, a female anti-hero, as she comes of age not through honesty, but rather her consumption of the art of those around her.

“Poser” opens in New York and Los Angeles on June 17.

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