To fabric what the 2015 documentary Atomic was to nuclear history, Jodie Mack’s The Grand Bizarre makes the tiniest thread feel significant. Great patterns pulse on screen – shot on 16mm with a Bolex – accompanied by musique concrète, sampling everything from a train’s howl to Skype’s dial tone. These familiar sounds weave into club beats, like the way textiles are a coming together of component parts, and are themselves part of greater tapestries.

What Mack – director, editor, cinematographer, composer – sees in fabric is the entire world, its glories and anxieties. Shawls are shown traveling by air, land and sea, a celebration of international art and culture. The frayed edges of decorative hangings are juxtaposed with digital coordination, a concern that our humanity is lost to zeroes and ones. Clothes on a wire travel like the wind and ripples of yarn resemble oceans. The artistry of creating a pattern complements the patterns found in nature, something the film’s barrage of sampled cloths attunes the viewer to, and there’s a feeling Mack prefers our material world to the artificial web.

It ends with ten minutes of colourful textures, rhythmically flipped through like slides in an old projector, and the effect is similar to 2001: A Space Odyssey’s star gate sequence. Among these constructions are single threads, becoming more indistinguishable the more they are viewed as part of their whole. Is that thread lost among an uncaring throng, or has it become greater for its selflessness? The interconnectivity of all things – here focusing on fabric, music, and, to an extent, language – could be harmonious, but that isn’t the technological, segmented world we live in. The Grand Bizarre knows this.

Its experimental nature leaves its intentions vague and open to interpretation, but there’s joy and humanity in its spritely pace, propelled by a standout soundtrack. A tactile and comforting watch.


Available to watch on: MUBI


DIRECTOR: Jodie Mack 

SYNOPSIS: An examination of the global circulation of patterns and textiles, observing recurring motifs and methods across different cultures and landscapes.