The Grand Bizarre (Jodie Mack, 2018): USA

Reviewed by Ryan Wildermuth. Viewed at the AFI Fest 2018.

There isn’t really too much to say about the plot of “The Grand Bizarre”. But that’s ok.  The film doesn’t need one as it does three things exceptionally well. Editing, sound design, and shot composition. The entire movie is pretty much a very long music video. Fabric is a reappearing motif in the film, moving and changing on its own using stop motion. All of this is accompanied by a unique and catchy soundtrack. This film has a lot going for it, but there are a few issues as well.

Firstly, this film really is a real treat to watch visually. So much is happening on the screen that you might even get a sensory overload (do not watch this film if you have epilepsy). The constant, ever changing style keeps the audience entertained, and the use of ambient noise will slowly turn into the soundtrack. This is extremely commendable and my favorite part of the movie. Hearing crickets on the country side slowly turn into the high hats of a beat is extremely enjoyable and entertaining, as you never really know when the movie will burst out another musical segment. The constant colors and images support the soundtrack, and when both are utilized together the result is extremely entertaining and impressive. Like I previously stated, it feels like a very long and well done music video. The fabric is a reappearing motif used throughout the film and images of the alphabet in all languages are displayed over and over again, suggesting connections and similarities. The fabric patterns and designs come from all over of the world. I’d say that the cloth represents unity, and the appearance of things like the long string of tied fabric that stretches throughout the world carries a message of unity. There’s a scene in Vietnam were the cloth can be seen dropping as the sound of a textile machine echo like gunfire, suggesting maybe that peace over there has been disrupted. However, a lot of the meaning is left for interpretations, and there may be some things that I’m reading too far into.

The pacing in this film starts off very strong and continues for most of the movie. The pacing is upbeat and active, but after awhile you’ll began to notice reuse of images. And at first it’s fine, but it really isn’t apparent until the ending. The ending almost kills the movie for me completely. The entire first forty or so minutes of the movie is extremely energetic and playful. So when the last twenty minutes completely halts the film dead in its tracks, it kills any pacing it had. The movie carries on with no soundtrack, no energy. Just the sound of papers shifting while we’re treated to 20 minutes of flashing images. And then it just ends. My eyes were irritated and it left me feeling cold and unsatisfied, really destroying that playful and energetic tone the movie conveyed so well. Maybe the complete halt was intentional, maybe to try and create some sort of juxtaposition. But I can’t really find any good reasoning for why, so I ended up disliking the ending, so much so that it really affected my overall feelings toward the film. I’d say cut the ending down, or save some of it for the credits, or even just cut it out all together as it distracts from an otherwise enjoyable film.

All in all the movie was very entertaining and a good watch. The ending is really the only thing that killed it, and it unfortunately stops me from gushing about this film which is rather disappointing as it had a lot going for it.


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