By midlandsmovies, Nov 25 2015 03:58PM
Tangerine (2015) Dir. Sean S. Baker
This rowdy and colourful film from the brash streets of LA is most famous for being one of the first feature films to be entirely shot on a mobile phone. The iPhone 5s if you’re interested. Whilst rudimentary and clearly “digital” it is a technical achievement nonetheless and the home-made tale is a story of smut and indecency but ends on a thoughtful and sympathetic note. A triumph given the lurid subject matter it tackles.
The story tells of a trans woman s*x worker called Sin-Dee Rella who exits prison after 28 days inside and meets with her best friend Alexandra who tells her that her pimp boyfriend has been cheating on her with a girl called Dinah. Rather than let this go, she attempts to track down her boyfriend and the girl in a passionate rage.
It’s a slim premise but leads to a trail of destruction around Hollywood and that story is cross-cut with an Armenian cab driver who trawls the streets looking for customers and a whole lot more as well. Both tales come to a head at the film’s climax at a donut shop with secrets being shared by all parties.
The film is surprisingly funny, and very dark, and although it covers current topics of gender and identity, it doesn’t dwell on them and lets the drama play out amongst the characters. The edgy subject matter may not be for all audiences’ tastes but the director balances this with affection and sensitivity amongst the film’s more vulgar moments. From vomiting taxi passengers to various bodily fluids the film may make audiences gag or be considered tasteless at times. However the director places these against a complex narrative and some considerate characters who have their own hopes and aspirations.
Although most of the film has a hand-held and in-your-face style, static shots of Alexandra singing lounge music help slow the intensity and give a break from the extremely manic journey they’re all on. The soundtrack as well was also memorable and one of the best of the year. Sometimes soundtrack, sometimes radio, almost a film musical at times, the songs were evocative of a rude and rough Los Angeles and as raw as the characters themselves.
With the sun beating down and moments of black humour, you will forget the film is actually set on Christmas Eve and but it also takes a no-flinching look at issues of hatred, control and outlandish behaviour whilst never judging those it portrays.
I recommend this film as although it has its problems – it takes an awful long while to feel sympathy with some characters, and you may never agree with their life choices – it knows what it wants to say, supresses none of its crudeness, is a great low budget achievement with the whole cast very believable. Streets ahead of other independent films shot on phone, it clearly has limitations yet no one would ever call it boring or lifeless.
Midlands Movies Mike