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domingo, 15 de novembro de 2015
Tangerine review: 'the best Christmas movie since Elf'
Shot entirely on an iPhone, this heart-spinning movie about two transgender prostitutes on the rampage on Christmas Eve is more than just a novelty
When you first hear about it, the gimmick behind Tangerine is irresistible – and when you see it in practice, you realise it isn’t a gimmick at all. This comic drama, written and directed by Sean Baker, was shot on the fly, entirely on an Apple iPhone 5s: or, to be exact, three of them, equipped with £115 clip-on anamorphic lenses, £100 handheld Steadicam mounts, and the £7.99 Filmic Pro app.
That kit list suggests Tangerine might be some kind of shoestring novelty – and the film’s plot, which sees a pair of transgender prostitutes cut a chaotic swathe through downtown Los Angeles on a busy Christmas Eve night, is certainly nothing if not novel. But the film’s financial limitations aren’t the point of the exercise: instead, they remain triumphantly beside it. Not a single frame of this heart, mind and soul-spinning movie prods you into remembering you’re watching "the iPhone film". It radiates a candour, immediacy and tongue-scalding sex appeal that a bigger budget would have only smothered.
Energy levels are wound to maximum from the film’s opening screech of “Merry Christmas Eve, bitch!”, as working trans-girls Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and Alexandra (Mya Taylor) split a wad of dough and icing at Donut Time, a contentedly seedy corner snack bar that becomes an unlikely hub for Tangerine’s unfolding pandemonium.
It’s shaping up to be a lovely day: Sin-Dee has just completed a month-long stretch for possession of crack cocaine and is about to be emotionally reunited with her boyfriend-stroke-pimp Chester (James Ransone, from The Wire and Treme). But Alexandra lets slip that Chester has been cheating on Sin-Dee with “fish” – an evocative slang term for a biological woman – and the news prompts a roaring rampage of reprisals through motels, fast-food joints and low-slung strip malls, as Sin-Dee rides out to defend her honour before Alexandra’s lounge-singing gig at 7pm, perhaps stopping to turn a trick or two on the way.
Tangerine moves fast, rocket-boosting from one screwball showdown to the next on the vim of its endlessly watchable, largely untrained cast (both Rodriguez and Taylor are making their screen debuts) and its swaggering soundtrack. It’s often hysterically funny, thanks to both its vinegary dialogue and the casual absurdity of its heroines’ everyday lives (one paid-for sexual encounter in a car wash, that plays out beneath churning rollers and generous splurges of shampoo, is executed with Chaplin-like timing).
A secondary plot thread involving Razmik (Karren Karagulian), a first-generation immigrant taxi driver with a soft spot for girls made like Sin-Dee and Alexandra, builds the sense that you’re witnessing the authentic story of an entire city – and some of the encounters in the back seat of his yellow cab would make wonderful short films in their own right. But Baker and his co-writer Chris Bergoch go to some lengths to ensure Razmik’s more "ordinary" story – he’s a hard-pressed husband and father, looking to escape from his tough working day with a moment of wildness – never pulls focus from the stars of the show.
In spite of its explicit sex and livid orange skies, Tangerine is, at heart, a proper Christmas movie about family and friendship – perhaps the best since Elf in 2003, in fact, although you probably wouldn’t bring the kids. There’s even a fairy-tale subtext thrumming away beneath its bonnet: Sin-Dee’s surname, it’s eventually revealed, is Rella, while a missing glass slipper (all right, a clear plastic stiletto) belonging to Chester’s "other woman", the permanently dishevelled Dinah (Mickey O’Hagan), comes to figure in the plot.
What it reminds you of, far more than Hollywood working-girl fables like Pretty Woman and Risky Business, is early Godard: lots of running, oodles of low-life, grubby-edged glamour, and an energy that jumps off the screen and ruffles your hair until it stands on end. As the title suggests, it’s all pith, zest and juice – and a delicious, delirious seasonal treat.