2022, NR, 87 min. Directed by Ori Segev, Noah Dixon. Starring Sylvie Mix, Bobbi Kitten, Abdul Seidu, Rachel Keefe, Drew Johnson.
REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., July 8, 2022
While slow-bubble psychodrama Poser might be deeply entrenched in the art rock scene of Columbus, Ohio, there's a comfortable recognizability to its depiction of underground gigs, halfway-informed discussions on creativity. We've all been there, in that cheap beer demimonde where sloppy precision is everything, and the next big thing is everywhere else's fifth-on-the-bill touring act. But Poser, the debut feature from local filmmakers Ori Segev and Noah Dixon, is so in love with the scene from which it draws, with the bands given momentary cameos, with the cool hipness and store brand subversion of it all, that they never seem quite capable of giving it the critique for which they seem to aim.
Smoky, hazy, dreamdrift cinematography courtesy of Logan Floyd gives Poser a poignancy and glow that is alluring but never quite captures the piss-trough stink and spilled-drink stickiness of an actual underground art scene. It's also very much a mash note to electro-pop duo Damn the Witch Siren (appearing as themselves) and especially to Bobbi Kitten (charismatic and wild, appearing as a fictionalized version of herself), somewhat stalked by the wannabe artist/wannabe somebody Lennon (Mix, deliberately if sometimes frustratingly a cypher). The young follower has inserted herself into the $5 cover music scene through meekly asking local creatives to be on her podcast, a show that no one ever seems to wonder why they've never actually heard an episode of. But mostly it becomes an excuse for Lennon to insinuate herself into Kitten's world, as Poser increasingly becomes an arthouse Single White Female told from the perspective of Jennifer Jason Leigh's character.
Part defanged Ingrid Goes West, part Our Band Could Be Your Life (and you may wish that part was the whole), Poser poses an intriguing conundrum for itself. Around the somewhat slight stalker plot is a film about the creative process and underground art scenes that's trying to explain both phenomena to audiences who probably won't spend much time at warehouse shows and backroom installations: Yet it's also so much a part of that scene that it can never quite extend that invite enough. It's funny in places, especially in the brief moments with Kitten's always-masked creative partner, Z Wolf. Sometimes that humor is inadvertent: That recognition of Columbus as just another spawn of the ur-scene may raise a chortle about how every town has a bunch of mediocre trios who pitch themselves with a descriptor that reads like an explosion in an exquisite corpse factory. Ultimately, it's as profound as the stoned guy on a couch, musing on the taste difference between a single chip folded on itself and two chips stacked.