November 10, 2021
The film side of TikTok has plenty of spoofs. But our writer prefers the critics, the metal-jawed burger-biting machine – and the effects experts revealing how to make a camera crew vanish into thin air
So that’s how you do an eating scene! How TikTok swallowed the movies
Film TikTok is giving film an explosion of energy, a performative and democratised version of cinephilia that celebrates, imitates, teases, lip-syncs, mashes up and mocks – but all the time rubs up against – the movies. Susan Sontag, in Against Interpretation, called for a rich, intuitive kind of criticism that celebrates and reproduces the sensuous effect of art, instead of imposing a coldly pedagogic analysis. I think she’d have loved Film TikTok. And it’s happened over just a few years, propelled by people under the age of 25.
Apart from everything else, Film TikTok may be undermining one of the most fundamental tenets of cinema: that the screen has to be “landscape” style, since anything else looks amateurish and inauthentic. British film-maker Charlie Shackleton recently talked about mentoring a group of young Australian critics and finding how utterly steeped they were in the language of TikTok: asked to take a picture of them on his phone, he recalls his chagrin for turning it sideways – “Like a fucking Lumiere brother!”Jean-Luc Godard collaged the movies in his epic essay project: Histoire(s) du Cinéma. And Film TikTok is doing something comparable, though without the conspicuous cultural weight and heft. It’s appropriating constituent elements and scenes then reshuffling them, or cutting in new goofy re-enactments. This juxtaposition is a critical act. Overwhelmingly, it’s driven by humour and comedy, and Film TikTok incidentally adores the key TikTok trope of the doppelganger — the shot-reverse-shot of the same people talking to themselves as different characters, shot slightly from below to underline the absurdity.
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