Tangerine

 

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This is the film that tells us where it’s at in American independent filmmaking in 2015.


Not to be confused with a very different recent release entitled Tangerines (q.v.), this is a film set in Los Angeles that is absolutely of today. It has energy to burn and is significant twice over. First, on the technical level, it provides stunning proof that something shot on iPhones can be shown in cinemas offering wonderfully clear and precise images that reek with atmosphere. Secondly, Sean Baker’s film (on which he is co-writer and co-photographer as well as being the director) does not hesitate to put screen centre two friends who, in addition to being hookers,  are also transsexuals and to cast them appropriately, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez as Sin-Dee Rella and Mya Taylor as Alexandra. Both give admirable performances.

 

If the film has a rawness to it that proves apt as we follow the two girls around during the course of a single day. It is, in fact, both Christmas Eve and the day when Sin-Dee has just emerged after spending 28 days in jail and she learns from Alexandra that their pimp, Chester (James Ransome), to whom Sin-Dee had been romantically attached, has in her absence taken up with a girl and a white girl at that, Dinah (Mickey O’Hagan). The jealous Sin-Dee now sets out with Alexandra to trace and challenge Dinah as well as to confront Chester. Subsequent events will also involve an Armenian taxi driver (Karren Karagulian) and his family, Alexandra’s one-evening stand singing in a bar and, most importantly, another revelation: on one occasion only Chester betrayed Sin-Dee with Alexandra too, a fact that might imperil their friendship.
  

Tangerine

 

Tangerine is a film with warmth and feeling and with a strong use of music, but the cost of being so cutting edge is that some audiences will find it is not to their taste at all. Indeed, given that among other things this is a great L.A. film, I have to acknowledge that Matthew Bissonnette’s 2009 Passenger Side was much more my kind of film. But for its target audience there is no doubt at all that Tangerine is spot on with the banter between Sin-Dee and Alexandra driving the comedy and Baker handling it all with an appropriate lack of restraint save when it comes to conveying the real friendship between the two girls.  

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, Karren Karagulian, Mickey O’Hagan, Alla Tumanian, James Ransome, Luiza Nersisyan, Arsen Grigoryan.


Dir and Ed Sean Baker, Pro Marcus Cox, Karrie Cox, Darren Dean, Shih-Ching Tsou and Baker, Screenplay Baker and Chris Bergoch, Ph Radium Cheung and Baker, Costumes Tsou.


Magnolia Pictures/Duplass Brothers Productions/Through Films etc.-Metrodome Distribution Ltd.
88 mins. USA. 2015. Rel: 13 November 2015. Cert. 15.