A shy young podcaster immerses herself in her local indie music scene as a way of finding herself and getting noticed in “Poser,” a mesmerizing immersion in music, a “scene” and the obsessions of a member of the “Hey everyone, notice ME” generation.
This terrific debut feature from a couple of Denison University film school alumni takes an unironic dive into their own scene, a music underworld in Columbus, Ohio, surviving on the fringes of Ohio State U.
In cinema shorthand, it’s “Slaves of New York” meets “Slacker,” with a bracing blast of Buy Local indie rock (and a little rap poetry) as its backdrop.
Newcomer Sylvie Mix has the title role, a pretty but somewhat mousey 20something who has the right hair — multi-tinted — the proper allotment of tattoos and the optimal number of nose-piercings (one). She even has the perfect hipster name — Lennon Gates. Is that an affectation, too?
Lennon is a background figure, restaurant dishwasher by day (her worried mother subsidizes her lifestyle), specter of the scene by night. She’s all about “secret shows” and finding music the same way generations of the “tuned-in” have done it — noticing photocopied ads stapled to telephone poles, “discovering” vinyl that’s “tucked away” in the stacks of her favorite indie record store, “hidden from shallow people,” who’ll never find what she’s stumbled across.
She has a guitar and fancies herself an artist — “I’m a songwriter, too.” But her real outlet is gathering audio — overheard inanities at a gallery opening, “ambient” sound, stuff like that. And since she’s got an iPhone and there are online how-to’s on everything, she starts her own podcast.
After a few rebuffed approaches, shy Lennon finds generous musicians who are desperate for any exposure at all who agree to chat, even perform for her. She then transfers the Pencil Weed, Wyd, Caamp and Papa Fritos digital phone audio to hissy audio cassettes, “because analog sounds better.”
“I go real lo-fi,” she tells her guests, the perfect thing to say to people who categorize their music as “junkyard bop,” “queer death pop” and the like.
But when she finally talks her idols, Damn the Witch Siren, into a sit-down, Lennon’s search for acceptance in this crowd takes a turn. Vivacious lead-singer/songwriter Bobbi Kitten (as herself) makes every chat coquettish and flirtatious. Best of all, she takes tiny-fish-in-a-tiny-pond Lennon seriously.
Co-directors Noah Dixon and Ori Segev build their film on careful observation of this sub-subculture, and pull drama out of Lennon’s growing confidence in her work and her place in the world, and her obvious obsession with this pixie indie rock dream girl.
Bobbi has magnetic stage presence and the charismatic confidence of the young, the talented and the beautiful off-stage. Lennon is forever on her heels around her, enthralled at her presence. She even takes to bringing an analog video camera to shows to further document this musical moment, Bobbi’s and by extension, hers.
Mix is instantly-credible as the introvert who figures out the way “out of my comfort zone” is to steal phrases like “out of my comfort zone” from conversations of the art gallery crowd, and mimic and emulate her girl-crush, Bobbi Kitten. She narrates her podcast in a “This American Life” monotone, but what she’d really love to become is a Bobbi Kitten coquette.
Even as things take a turns towards conventional movie melodrama, Dixon and Segev pull us in and keep us there with their eye and ear for detail. The music is all over the place, and intriguing. The milieu is absolutely fascinating.
They’ve made a movie that is the synthesis of Generation Disruption. In days of old, there’d be one “scene” at a time, so designated by major record labels and legacy media like Rolling Stone — Jersey to Bowery to Manchester to Minneapolis to Athens, Ga. to Seattle to Austin, Orlando or wherever, one hotbed of musical activity sucked up all the attention until everybody moved on.
That’s been disrupted by the Great Internet Democratization of Culture, especially as it pertains to music.
Here’s a subculture that most every college town has a version of, where “success” isn’t instant or national or even substantial. It’s a cult following building to a goal just around the bend, “an EP we’re releasing next year” or an LP (go vinyl or stay home) “due out in 2026.” It’s another week of podcast interviews waiting for that flash in the pan moment when the Internet’s attention points your way.
It’s all about getting attention. And with or without “the goods,” the talent, it’s all a pose.
Cast: Sylvie Mix, Bobbi Kitten, Abdul Seidu
Credits: Directed by Noah Dixon and Ori Segev, scripted by Noah Dixon. An Oscilloscope Labs release.
Running time: 1:28