Watched on Tuesday February 2, 2016.
As the filmmaker Casey Neistat often says: “Technology should only be an enabler, not the main topic. The gear doesn’t matter as long you have a story to tell.” Tangerine is the best example for that. Although the iPhone came a very long way in phone camera development it is still a very limited device in filmmaking terms. What Sean Baker achieved with it is amazing! And with it’s limited resources, the film tells a very good story.
If you hear about a film about transgender sex workers in L.A. you would expect a tragic story about all the struggle they would have with customers, with their profession itself, with being transgender. Or at least, I expected that. Often mainstream films drift into some sort of poverty porn.
But this film is the opposite. It addresses the problems Sin-Dee and Alexandra have, but not in a condescending or voyeuristic way. They are real-life people with real-life problems. And the fact that the protagonists are played by transgender actresses shows that the movie wants to tell a story with transgender women, not only about them. Every time I see a cis actor like Eddi Redmayne or Jeffrey Tambor cast as transgender women I wonder how this could be. Obviously, there are good transgender actresses around and they are getting more. A white person wouldn’t be cast as a black character, for example. So why is this still a thing?
Getting back to the film, the story itself is captivating. Told on a single day, with a constant flow of action it feels like pumping blood. The story has a pulse. I was reminded at Pulp Fiction, at the feeling I have when I watch this movie. Tangerine is the new Pulp Fiction for me. It has a unique way of storytelling. The use of music is also interesting. The constant change between up-tempo dance music and classical songs gave me a feeling of conflict between Christmas time and the normal street life.
I hope this sets a new standard for transgender story telling.