'Let Your Light Shine': Film Review

Courtesy of Big Ears Festival
Challenging abstraction meets crowd-pleasing goofiness.

Experimental animator Jodie Mack presents work from the last few years.

Admitting in her introduction to this Big Ears Festival audience that the first thing she intended to offer was "a 12-minute silent film about paper," Dartmouth College-based animator Jodie Mack was as cheerful as an artist can be while begging viewers not to walk out of her screening. "The good news is the films only get easier to watch," she insisted midway through the program.

She was right about the difficulty. After the aforementioned silent film, New Fancy Foils, which in rapid fire alternated images of vintage decorative-paper swatches, Mack showed something almost as assaultive to the eyes as the offerings of some of the weekend's louder bands were to the ears. Undertone Overture, made of images of tie-dyed fabric, contained such long stretches of high-frequency edits that it was difficult to watch the screen without allowing one's eyes to glaze over with fatigue.

The thing is, though, Undertone Overture is gorgeous — like a midcentury color field painting come to life, pulsing with vivid hues that refuse to settle down for the sake of viewers' comfort. Having survived it, audience members might soon find themselves wanting another look.

Instead, they got Dusty Stacks of Mom, a 41-minute epic whose soundtrack mimicked Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon from beginning to end. A goofy, fond eulogy for the wholesale poster business her family ran for years, the film found Mack singing about the kind of cheap decor used to cover dorm walls while causing Mom's inventory to dance about with stop-motion photography. Not nearly as imaginative as it might have been, the cutesy featurette seemed to expose the filmmaker's core sensibility, in which even a challengingly paced work will likely be constructed of glitter or pretty colors.

That was certainly the case in the two short beauties rounding out the program, Glistening Thrills and Let Your Light Shine. For the latter, Mack passed out prism glasses so viewers would see the white-on-black animation onscreen multiplied into a thicket of dancing rainbows. More enjoyable than most of the 3D effects coming out of Hollywood these days, it was a feel-good chaser to some of the more austere abstractions being offered at Big Ears, both on screens and on stages.

Venue: Big Ears Festival
Director-producer-editor: Jodie Mack
rated, 75 minutes