Tangerine (2015) dir. Sean Baker
A film recently available to watch on Netflix or rent if you still go to a video store is TANGERINE. A film that came out last year, premiering at Sundance before running very well on the film festival circuit. Simply put, Tangerine ain’t Hollywood, it ain’t glitz, it is L.A., and even more realized when shot with an I-phone. A simple love triangle story, only amped up by being set in a part of LA, that Hollywood does not want you to know. A part of the city that exist as mecca of strip malls, that are run down as business have come in gone leaving wear and tear for the next owner to worry about, and the next owner. It isn’t ugly or truly gritty, but it is just worn out enough to look boring is the backdrop for this film. And let me be honest, I love that more than any other aspect of the film. The main character does “Sin-Dee” a tranny hooker, does not exist in a slummy, police sirens, boarded up, don’t drive their world. Nor does she live in some sound stage GUYS AND DOLLS world. This isn’t 1970s Scorsese nor is it “STRAIGHT OUTTA OF COMPTON She lives where there are out of date doughnut shops, 7-11s, and Lexus driving by a Transit Bus. And recent years this world is starting to pop up more and more, in films like STINKING HEAVEN (dir. Nathan Silver, 2015), a bizarre period piece set in the early 90s, SPRING BREAKERS (dir.Harmony Korine 2012), a film set in Daytona Beach during spring break that progressively moves away from that world or, NIGHTCRAWLER (dir.Dan Gilroy, 2014)” a film set in the general “L.A.” area during the twilight hours.
So what is with this fascination with bland, worn out settings and why is this a trend that is appearing now. And really, why do I find it appealing? Isn’t cinema, regardless of its’ budget, country of origin, supposed to in some ways take you away from reality and give you new perspective on something, or allow you to escape from the mundane world. Not go the exact opposite and scream out this is the world you live in, and it sucks, doesn’t look that exciting, and these people are real and could live a block away from you.
TANGERINE, is this film that reminds you that there are tranny hookers in this world, and they have problems. Problems being, men cheating on them, getting paid, and not wanting to start problems with their “friends”. Problems that anyone else should be able to avoid or resolve in a very realistic manner. Maybe because we the viewer see this and it not us, we can laugh it off. Surely, this is a world we are so far removed from it does not seem real, therefore a run down car wash, the empty bar lounge, even the transit bus, seem fake to us, similar to the gambling alley in GUYS AND DOLLS. If this is the case, I applaud Sean Baker for turning our boring world into a place of escapism. But I know this is not true. I cannot escape living in a world filled with trash and that trash is too real for me to forget, (even when living in what might be the ant-thesis of L.A.). Baker though does an amazing job as he has has amped it up so well that what should be easily resolvable problems of the trannies becomes just as intense for me as it does for them. Halfway through the film I think, how the fuck can they still be functioning on half a doughnut and no water. Tangerine is an insanely important film to watch, beyond its’ DYI of it all, it shows a face of the U.S. that is too real to ignore. It is somehow a current artifact of now but yet timeless cinematic story from the future. – DC