TAYLOR SWIFT: THE ERAS TOUR: A Lightning In A Bottle Cultural Phenomenon – Film Inquiry

 
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Wilson is a cinema enthusiast based out of Toronto, Canada.…

In her ongoing quest for world domination, Taylor Swift made a quick detour at the gates of cinema last year with her uniquely marketed concert film. Being released in tandem with her ongoing Eras Tour, which the film documents, Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour was a box office juggernaut that defied expectations. And while the film is obviously catered towards Swift’s dedicated fanbase, its almost disruptive impact on the cinematic landscape certainly elevates the discourse surrounding what is a typically one-dimensional form of filmmaking.
Directed by Sam Wrench, the film splices together footage from Swfit‘s performances at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, and plays out exactly as one might expect from a concert film. As a theatrical experience, Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, was revelatory in its sidestepping of traditional distribution practices. By having distribution rights sold directly to theatre chains in most territories, it put studios (many of which failed to negotiate a deal in the first place) on notice, though some have argued that such a move might also have negative connotations for the marketing ecosystem.

source: AMC Theaters and Cinemark Theaters


Either way, it’s hard not to argue what a unique piece of filmmaking this is. By having the film released while the tour itself was still ongoing and limiting showtimes to the weekend only (at least initially), The Eras Tour replicated the live experience in a way that really hasn’t been done before. It’s a film that revels in all the hype and immediacy of the actual concert itself, while still being a traditional filmed product. Unlike certain sporting events that are live streamed into theatres, The Eras Tour still worked within the confines of a standard pre-packaged motion picture, yet carried far more gravitas and momentous significance.
Looking back, the film really capitalized on its circumstantial success by being released at just the right moment in time. It offered audiences who weren’t able to snatch tickets for one of the hottest concert tours in recent history, by transposing that experience to a theatrical setting. In a time when studios and commercial filmmakers are struggling to bring audiences to the theatres, The Eras tour is an undeniable success story for the medium. And even though the reason for its success might not have anything to do with the film’s artistic elements, its utilization of cinema’s commercial properties is nevertheless deserving of praise.
As a concert film, Wrench employs an overly simplistic blueprint that almost exclusively focuses Swift’s musical performances. From start to finish, The Eras Tour is a stockpiling of musical numbers that moves like a curated playlist. Behind-the-scenes montages that normally accompany films like this are all but absent, and even the banter in between songs by Swift herself is kept at a minimum. It’s really all about the music, and perhaps calls into question Wrench’s contribution as a filmmaker. It’s a point of criticism that can likely be made of many concert films, but is particularly poignant when any candid unveiling of Swift’s creative process is valued at an all time high.
It’s almost as if Wrench, and most certainly Swift herself, made a conscious decision to focus exclusively on the music. And when almost every single aspect of her concert experience has been documented through both social media and the general media at large, it’s maybe fitting that The Eras Tour sought out to simply be a definitive requiem for the music itself – something that can’t necessarily be replicated by even the sharpest of camera phones. In a sense, it’s catered to anyone who just wants to bathe in Swift’s music, and none of the chaotic noise surrounding it. This takes away from the film’s ingenuity as an artistic expression of cinema, but as with most concert films, the range of expression, even in the best of cases, tends to be limited.
Unlike Miss Americana, which was clearly an exercise in celebrity navel gazing – albeit a likely curated expedition from Swift’s meticulously precise team – The Eras Tour is really all about the music. The reasons for its success at the box office have little to do with the actual craft of the film, and more to do with the lightning in a bottle moment that Swift is currently experiencing. The world is bedazzled by everything she does, and in the wake of Barbenheimer and event cinema being a defining feature of 2023, the film was certainly an unexpected popular cultural phenomenon.
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Wilson is a cinema enthusiast based out of Toronto, Canada. He escapes from his day job by writing random thoughts about cinema on the internet. Although he has a longstanding penchant for Hong Kong cinema, he considers himself to be an advocate for Asian cinema in general. He has been attending the Toronto International Film Festival every year since 2005, and more of his work can be found on his website: www.wilson-kwong.com.

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