Eyes on Screen are now proud to acknowledge the Lincoln Film Society. The Society is a voluntarily run, not-for-profit organisation. Each year, they organise a programme of screenings, offering the very best of contemporary world cinema. This allows beautiful films with little or no exposure to take centre stage in Lincoln. For their 2016-17 season, Eyes on Screen will be reviewing each film screened. For more information on the Lincoln Film Society, please visit their website. For the latest news, you can also like their Facebook page, and follow them on Twitter.
The following review is of Tangerine (USA: 2015) – screening #8 of the Society’s 2016-17 season, shown on Friday 18th November 2016.
Tangerine tells the interconnected stories of Sin-Dee, a transgender sex worker recently released from jail, searching the streets of Hollywood for her pimp boyfriend who has supposedly been cheating; her friend Alexandra who is trying to promote her singing show at a local bar; and taxi driver Razmik who has an affection for Alexandra and Sin-Dee, along with some weighty secrets.
The film is defined by its commitment not to be a mainstream movie, showing characters, scenarios and filming techniques never to be employed by the Hollywood majors. The characters are all flawed and interesting: Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) is prone to violence but has a sweet heart; Alexandra (Mya Taylor) wants to be by Sin-Dee’s side but also wants to progress in life; and Raznik (Karren Karagulian) is loving to a fault. The scenarios they find themselves in make for entertaining developments and character beats, and the camerawork shows that anyone can and indeed should make a movie if it can provoke discussion.
Tangerine is so very French New Wave: actors deliver their dialogue in what looks to be an unrehearsed manner, with dialogue overlapping and flubs, creating a realistic, down to earth tone for the film. This is aided by the actors being mostly unknown or small bit players, and the cameras used (modified iPhone 5s) being deliberately chosen to be unobtrusive to filming on location. The central actors themselves, Rodriguez and Taylor, have real on-screen chemistry, adding to the realism of the film and making it a bitterer pill to swallow. Following recent festivities, this all works to provide one of the most heartbreaking shots ever captured for screen, related paradoxically to Christmas.
Unfortunately, the film is not without its flaws. The soundtrack can sometimes be intrusive to scenes, suddenly shifting to the style of a music video, corrupting that down to earth tone. Some plot developments also seem to happen too quickly. Here, pacing is not the only issue; inexperienced actors fail to deliver emotional punches.
By its very nature, Tangerine is not for everyone. There are some frank portrayals of minoritized groups, and some genuine problems in presentation. Yet, for all its flaws, the film is challenging and thought-provoking; something that needs to be experienced at least once.
Written by Josh Greally