REVIEW: Tangerine

29 07 2015

TangerineThe big headline surrounding “Tangerine” after its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival concerned its radical filming techniques.  Director Sean Baker made the decision to shoot his entire project on an iPhone using anamorphic lens adapters, which makes it the first widely legitimated film made with such mobile cameras.  As he later explained in interviews, this choice largely came about due to budgetary concerns.

But to relegate this aesthetic selection simply to fiscal matters does the film a disservice.  The iPhone does not merely capture the events of “Tangerine.”  It heightens them, lending a sense of ceaseless motion and excitement to the proceedings.  Unlike a larger camera, the untethered iPhone as a recording mechanism can float more freely through a scene.

With such a camera, Baker (who also co-shot the film with Radium Cheung) has the freedom to quickly jump around a moment to find the most interesting component at any given time.  This enhanced capacity makes a perfect match of form to content as “Tangerine” follows a day in the life of two transgender sex workers in Hollywood.  Their activities, which are covert and shady by nature of their illegality, lead to many dramatic and surprisingly hysterical situations.

At first, “Tangerine” seems content to just portray its two leads, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez’s Sin-Dee and Mya Taylor’s Alexandra, shooting the breeze in swear-heavy vernacular.  Both are fast-talking chicks quick to erupt in anger over the backhanded dealings of their pimp, Chester.  The camera mostly follows as their mouths and egos lead them across town, resembling a collection of anecdotes.  It glides by on novelty for a while but fully redeems itself when a number of the threads connect in one uproarious climax.

Sneakily, “Tangerine” also comes full circle in the end and reveals itself as a rather touching chronicle of friendship through thick and thin.  Sin-Dee and Alexandra are two indelible creations who will likely linger in the cinematic landscape far longer than the battery of an iPhone.  B+3stars

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One response

5 08 2015
Courtney Small

This is one of my favourite films of the summer so far. Did not expect such an energetic, and surprisingly touching, film. You practically forget that it was even shot on an iPhone by time you are 15 minutes into it.

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