The Grand Bizarre ★★★★½

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From my TIFF Wavelengths coverage for MUBI:

A feature-length culmination of the forms and ideas that experimental animator Mack has been exploring for the past decade, The Grand Bizarre is also a song in praise of cosmopolitanism. Using travel as its essential framework, The Grand Bizarre examines the world through textiles—a frequent motif in Mack’s work. We see rugs, fabric swatches, scarves, and tapestries come to life through stop-motion and single-frame movement, often flickering by in mirrors and at certain locations in the image. They are colorful banners representing the patterns and timeless order that underpins the apparent chaos of daily life.

But then, Mack is also working with a dual meaning of the word “material.” She shows us the production process, how contemporary weaving takes place and the way goods are shipped all over the global marketplace. What was once a purely artisanal practice is now a network that interconnects all of us, and Mack makes it clear that she too is part of this international system of exchange. Portions of The Grand Bizarre recall Vertov’s Man with the Movie Camera, but the “animating” spirit of the film just might be the late experimental filmmaker Warren Sonbert, whose global montage films depicted both the beauty as well as the social and economic underpinnings of the various cultures he visited.

Mack’s film is whimsical, features some sick beats (including a riff on the Skype theme), and is so personal that it ends with the artist’s own sneeze. But the fact that it may be the most purely pleasurable film of the year shouldn’t prevent us from appreciating its exigency. The Grand Bizarre is a film about embracing all the colors and patterns of the wide, wide world, and in that regard, it’s exactly the film we need right now.