Thursday, August 13, 2015

Tangerine Review

Tangerine would likely merit being a notable film from 2015 if only because of its impressive achievement of being one of the rare feature-length motion pictures to be shot entirely on an iPhone, but interestingly, the filmmakers behind this feature don't just let that technological achievement serve as a substitute for sharp writing and directing. Instead, it's one of numerous aspects of Tangerine that has a tendency to linger in ones memory.

Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch write this movie, with Baker also directing, which all takes place on Christmas Eve as Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) sets out on a mission to find the woman who her boyfriend has been cheating on her with. Her best friend, Alexandra (Mya Taylor) attempts to promote her concert to her friends while trying not to get swept up in Sin-Dees drama. It's a premise that thrives on the two characters individual desires, with Sin-Dee having a compulsion to get to the bottom of exactly what her boyfriend has been doing (in every sense of the word) while she's been in prison, while Alexandra is eager to promote her own public vocal performance.

These are, in the grand scheme of the world at large, very mundane events, if even that. The film realizes that, but the story goes through great pains to show why these predicaments matter to the individual characters. For instance, while watching the film, I didn't always agree with what Sin-Dee did in the course of movie (namely beating up a poor woman who has an affiliation with her boyfriend) but her character is written and portrayed by Rodriguez in such a layered manner that I knew where these outbursts (and trust me, she has a lot of these sort of outburts in the course of the story) stemmed from.

As Sin-Dee rampages across Los Angeles, she's accompanied by a score that, at first, made me apprehensive. It's so over-the-top and heightened (it has a definitive electronic feel to it), I expected it to stick out like a sore thumb in the course of the story. But on the contrary, I was smitten by the score by the end of the movie, which does a great job of capturing the intensity of the emotions of the characters in musical form. It's the sort of unusual artistic decision that ends up working like gangbusters.

It isn't just in the form of music that Tangerine comes alive, as director Sean Baker (who is also the cinematographer and editor of this motion picture), whose previous directorial credits include an episode of Greg The Bunny, has a sharp visual eye that comes in handy considering the unorthodox way the movie is filmed. Shooting the film on an iPhone works as the perfect aesthetic decision, as one can see the way it adds to the film when further analyzing it without distracting you in the course of the movie. Hell, my eyes adjusted to the unique filming method within seconds of the film starting, a sharp contrast to other unique filming methods that take me out of movies I'm watching, like 48 fps,

Even more than how he uses the iPhone to film the movie, Baker excels at creating memorable visual imagery, especially in the last scene of the movie, which ends the entire proceedings on a somber note. Watching him use the Christmas lights to cascade around the numerous crestfallen characters left me heartbroken, but it also left me impressed with the skill he possess in filmmaking. Tangerine is my introduction to Bakers work, but considering how fantastic of a film it is, I'm certain this won't be the last movie of his I view.

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