DVD: Tickled | reviews, news & interviews
The laughter doesn't last in a gripping documentary about fetishes and power
This story drops down the rabbit-hole so fast, you doubt it’ll ever hit bottom. Kiwi TV presenter David Farrier’s human interest items of the That’s Life/One Show sort led him to feature “competitive tickling” videos. His interest drew disproportionate, homophobic legal wrath from their mysterious maker, and this crowd-funded documentary is Farrier and co-director Dylan Reeve’s stubborn response. If revelations aren’t quite on the level of Searching for Sugar Man or The Imposter, the layers of deceit it reveals are grippingly unexpected.
The tickling leagues, like their maker’s loopy enthusiasm for importing the “skill” into Mixed Martial Arts, of course camouflage a tickling fetish. Its outré nature and association with laughter intriguingly colour this darker tale. Tickling is the thread luring the directors and us towards an ugly, decades-long saga of self-hating sexuality, pathological deception, crossed lines in pursuing sexual quirks, and the wounding exploitation of poor young American men by the very rich. The scenes in destitute Muskegon, Michigan, where tickling “cells” are rife, have a mood of sadness and helpless anger which affects both victims and film-makers. They suggest a bigger American story.
Farrier and Reeve’s first feature is adequately cinematic, lingering on wintry Midwest and New York landscapes. The TV cliché of completing a “journey” is dutifully dropped into the script, when it’s really a thorough piece of investigative journalism. The bespectacled, amiable Farrier scraps early hints of Theroux-style faux-bumbling, as he focuses on serious abuses and legal threats from a ruthless, wealthy quarry. The Extras – an interview with a willing model for a legit tickle site, where Farrier and his crew are tickled themselves – confirm the fetish’s innocence. Dehumanising others in its pursuit is where the sin sets in.
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?