The slur of poser often gets thrown around by gatekeeping members of different art forms or fandoms as they deem anyone with less experience or knowledge as a fake. The name serves as a way to hurt feelings and ostracize a person from a group. However, imitation often occurs because of the need to fit in, to go outside your comfort zone, or not be yourself anymore. Most of the time when the call of poser becomes aimed at someone the name unfairly judges the person during their journey of exploration. But sometimes the poser so desperately wants to belong they will lie, and completely betray themselves as they steal the identity and ideas from others. Focusing on the more sinister use of the term, directors Ori Segev and Noah Dixon’s POSER takes us backstage in the indie-rock scene in Columbus, Ohio where we experience the deceitful lengths some will go to belong.
Obsessed with sounds such as background noises, eavesdropped conversations, and ambiance, Lennon Gates (Sylvie Mix) seeks out rare and unique sounds with the plan of creating a podcast. The opening scene starts in an art gallery where people mingle and discuss their impressions of the featured pieces. Three art aficionados take center screen as they gather around a painting, but none of them is our leading lady. Instead, we find Lennon standing further away as she clandestinely records the conversation on her phone. After returning home, she transfers the sound clip to an analog tape and then stores it with the hundreds of other recordings already lining her shelves. And when not hovering around the periphery of the art world, Lennon also enjoys underground musicians. Like very underground. All the bands she likes play in an abandoned meat packing factory. Lennon finds something alluring about the small exposure and tries to capture their art knowing so few people will ever experience it.
Lennon does not express emotions in her voice or her facial expressions but somehow portrays a completely deadpan person. She lives a solitary existence as she keeps her family at a distance and chooses to surround herself with her audio tapes instead of people. And for the first part of the film most interactions with Lennon place her as an observer or merely an extension of her microphone as she produces her podcast. She portrays a timid woman who blocks out the real world with her headphones but lurking behind the mousey demeanor we catch glimpses of something more menacing.
While Lennon shows interest in everything that creates a sound, one singer really mesmerizes her. Bobbi Kitten (played by herself) is the lead singer of the real-life rock duo Damn the Witch Siren along with her music partner Z-Wolf (a man never seen out of his wolf mask). The fascination with Bobbi sparks the need for imitation in Lennon, but her copycat behavior goes beyond just recreating Bobbi’s words. Lennon also tries to mimic Bobbi’s aesthetics and moves. Lennon’s plainness makes her a canvas waiting for someone to leave their mark, and Bobbi seems aware of Lennon’s vulnerable behavior. During an intimate scene in a bathroom, Bobbi mentally and physically alters the impressionable Lennon first thru drugs and then by drawing on her skin. Lennon dutifully follows Bobbi from one venue to the next, hoping to record every song, every word, every emotion from the idolized singer. However, we soon realize Lennon is not just a sound enthusiast looking to record. She wants the words and the emotions to be hers. She listens over and over and then writes down what she hears. However, she can replay the sounds as much as she wants and even memorize all the words, but the art will never be hers.
POSER sings us a story that is well-acted and well-scripted. Mix and Kitten play a well-matched pair as they both thoroughly embrace their characters. And behind the leading performers, the film provides a packed stage of powerful back-ups. Anyone who has spent time as a musician or just enjoys local music will love the atmosphere of this film as well as the exposure to the Columbus underground art scene. And for a movie strongly based on sound, the visuals also possess a strange beauty that relies on a weird and messy style. The entire soundtrack blends music styles, much like how POSER presents as a mix-tape of film genres giving us an essence of thriller, drama, comedy, and even romance.
POSER debuts today in theaters in NYC and LA, followed by a nationwide rollout.