The first feature-length work from avant-garde filmmaker/animator/composer Jodie Mack defies easy categorization. The Grand Bizarre is a sort of musical (like her Yard Work Is Hard Work and Dusty Stacks of Mom) in that Mack’s rhythmic editing is synchronized with her original synth-pop score, which seamlessly integrates the ambient sound of machines, human voices, and wildlife. Grand Bizarre is also a landscape film, in which wide shots of scenic vistas around the world become staging areas for the stop-motion choreography of colorful fabrics, their geometric and floral patterns pirouetting and ping-ponging across the frame, or filling it in vibrant close-up. The film then becomes a strange kind of ethnography of labor, but one in which laborers themselves remain mostly out of sight, the shipping containers they move and looms they work lent a perpetual, dehumanized momentum by Mack’s animation of the 16mm images. The combined effect of her animation, the time-lapse photography and the movement of natural elements such as wind, water, and the rise and fall of the sun captured within gives The Grand Bizarre a polyrhythmic dynamism. Mack’s cutting has rarely been so purposefully kinetic; the sequence where she rapidly edits together images of machines in a textile factory with the half-formed fabrics they’re weaving approaches a kind of analog glitch art.
She seems less interested in charting a linear journey from point A to point B than remixing the entire chain of production into an hour-long audiovisual feedback loop. Location is abstracted throughout: maps appear in extreme close-up, chopped into shapes and colors, while globes spin wildly and bounce across the floor. As with her recent short, Hoarders Without Borders, Mack’s manipulation of the materials becomes an element of their animation beyond simply contributing to the illusion of their movement. The viewer becomes especially aware of how the textiles are positioned and juxtaposed within the frame, at the end, when Mack slows down the pace and lets the sound of the winding Bolex become the soundtrack. Her work as filmmaker cataloguing and capturing these objects becomes part of the perpetual motion machine propelling them around the world, just as the montage that opened the film linked her travel in producing the film to that larger process.
You can currently stream Jodie Mack’s The Grand Bizarre on Mubi.
Published as part of New York Film Festival 2018 | Dispatch 2.