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Review: Jodie Mack brings still images to life in experimental film at the Wex

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Jodie Mack's 'Let Your Light Shine' was screened at OSU's Wexner Center for the Arts on Oct. 22 at 7:00 p.m. Credit: Courtesy of OSU

Jodie Mack’s ‘Let Your Light Shine’ was screened at OSU’s Wexner Center for the Arts on Oct. 22 at 7:00 p.m.
Credit: Courtesy of OSU

The Film/Video Theater at the Wexner Center went completely black. Big white numbers popped up on the screen counting down to the beginning of the show, the same numbers you would see in old films.

Jodie Mack, an experimental filmmaker who teaches at Dartmouth College, showed her five-part series “Let Your Light Shine” Wednesday night to an almost full auditorium. The showing consisted of five short films made and shot by Mack on 16mm film.

The first part, “New Fancy Foils,” showed mostly still shots of fabrics, foils and papers with different patterns printed on them. The prints were shown with a rhythmic pattern, although the only sound you could hear was something that sounded like rain drops falling on the roof top. Viewers’ eyes moved around the screen to grasp bits and pieces of the swirls, flowers and stripes as they flashed across the screen. The patterns came across the screen at different speeds, some with a great brightness that made me wonder if they had warned people with epilepsy about the show.

After a very brief lull in the show, the second piece, “Undertone Overture,” started. As a rumbling sound started to fill the auditorium, tie-dye patterns started to appear on the screen. The soundtrack to this short sounded like a jet, or as if the camera was rolling in the waves in the ocean. The audience occasionally was exposed to something that sounded like children’s laughter. This film was different than the first in the sense that the tie dye patterns appeared to almost be continuous.

It appeared almost as if the camera was moving through a sky filled with tie-dye patterns and bursts of colors that the camera was flying around. This continuous look had an intense feeling paired with the soundtrack and the almost grainy look of the 16mm film.

The next short, which Mack described as the “headliner” of the film, tells the story of Mack’s mother’s poster shop. “Dusty Stacks of Mom” started off with a stop-motion ocean coming out of a faucet. This brilliant use of stop-motion animation led into shots of posters and other recognizable objects spread throughout a warehouse. Mack’s soft, yet elegant voice began her sung narration over Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” as she invited viewers in telling them to come and tour her “mother’s poster factory.”

Mack’s self-proclaimed “amateur” voice added a comforting feeling — almost like a mother singing a lullaby — to the film as viewers watched posters and their cardboard carriers dance around the shelves and tables.

About halfway through this short, Mack handed the attention over to her mother. The film stopped showing just the posters in the show, and introduced Mack’s mother as a character in the film. We were first introduced to her mother in a shot that reminded me somewhat of a science fiction B movies, specifically “Earth Girls Are Easy,” which I love. Her mother was in what looked like a submarine window while lights flashed around her.

Her mother danced around the factory, while playing instruments made out of posters, while also rolling and shipping posters to customers. Mack said after the show that her mother was an instrumental part in the organization of the shoot and daily activities in making the film. At one point during these set-up scenes, Mack even did a short part where her karaoke seemed to be more of a rap type rhythm.

“Why not just let it be imperfect in an exciting way?” Mack asked, regarding her singing during the short.

The fourth short, “Glistening Thrills,” showed prismatic patterns hanging on strings amidst leaves.

This film was accompanied by a smoother soundtrack, almost calming the audience down after the three previous faster films. The shots were beautiful and presented at a slower pace than the others.

Then the lights went up and the audience cheered and clapped. A bit of confusion was present around the room as audience members knew there was a fifth short. Mack and others walked around the auditorium passing out special prismatic glasses for the fifth film.

Without the glasses, the fifth short, “Let Your Light Shine,” was a simple short with white line illustrations on a black background. With the glasses, the white lights turned into bright rainbow-colored “fireworks” dancing around the screen. This use of the glasses was both brilliant and simple as an end to a great series of films.

Mack, who not only seemed extremely humble despite all of her recent successes at film festivals, but also like a genuinely nice person, stepped up to the podium after the show for a Q&A segment.

She answered audience inquiries, calling on some by first name who she might have recognized from a class she spoke at earlier that day. Some audience members asked about her influences (she named Oscar Fischinger as one), and others asked about the technicalities of the film (she shows her films at 24 frames per second).

The thing that I think most resonated with me most to describe the beauty of the films and Jodie Mack herself is this:

“I’m giving it one last life,” Mack said about the paper she used in her film. “I’m making it decompose in dance.”

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