Film

The Melbourne International Film Festival, Reviewed

The best, the worst, and the weirdest of what's coming to Australian movie screens in coming months.

The Film That Flips Hollywood The Bird:

Tangerine, dir. Sean Baker

Reviewed by: Glenn Dunks

At once both a radically high-octane slice of ingenious guerrilla filmmaking and also wonderfully simple, Tangerine is like a bolt of electricity that charges through the cinema and sets its audience on fire from sheer originality and foul-mouthed bravado. It’s the tale of a woman scorned and charging across the city to find the man who’s done her wrong (and the woman he did it with), but what invigorates this deceptively straight-forward story is a colourful, strange, vivacious energy the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) is a sex worker and transgender woman, fresh out of a month-long stint in prison, and enjoying a donut at her favourite shop on the corner of Highland and Santa Monica. In the film’s tone-setting opening scene, she discusses weaves and hormones with her BFF Alexandra (Mya Thomas) who accidentally reveals that Sin-Dee’s lover and pimp, Chester (James Ransome), has been having an affair with a “real fish” cis woman. As soon as you can say, “wow, this was really filmed on an iPhone 5S!”, their chase begins with a pulsating soundtrack of trap music.

Much has been made of a film finally casting trans actors in its lead roles, yet making them once again portray sex workers and drug addicts. While there’s surely a discussion to be had about that, Tangerine is a film of such unique qualities that it feels like the wrong one to chastise. Director Sean Baker made a splash with his last film, Starlet, about a friendship that forms between a young porn actress and an elderly lady. Once again, Baker’s perspective is not one of condemnation or belittlement, but rather respect. He simply portrays them as characters who struggle and love and hurt just like everyone else.

In case you didn’t catch it up there, yes, Tangerine was filmed using an iPhone 5S. While most directors go bigger and bigger with each subsequent film, Sean Baker is going in the opposite direction and showing us how the most common of devices can be used to make great art. Tangerine has the kinetic pulse of the future, and it’s an exciting thing to behold.

For fans of: technological advances in cinema, trap music, funny bitchez

Opening in Australia: September 10

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