Saturday, 10 October 2015

LFF REVIEW - TANGERINE (SEAN BAKER)


And suddenly Sean Baker comes along to skewer your expectations. The first cue comes in Tangerine's opening shot, which is quite plainly, quite simply just not what you may initially identify it as; Baker isn't especially concerned with such visual or stylistic cues though, and the surprises of Tangerine are more situational and character-based. A character-based comedy isn't much to get enthused about in and of itself, though it's the specifics of Tangerine that make it so easy to get enthused about - specifically those specifics which relate this film to the current cultural climate. One film in a wave of LGBTI-themed titles in recent years, it's nonetheless antithetical to the aforementioned, relatively conservative climate, and in so being it attains an almost-educational quality, schooling its audience on its themes of openness and fluidity. It does as much with an integral sass that seems designed to procure another surprise for the unsuspecting viewer when juxtaposed with its accepting character - the two converge so seamlessly because they are one and the same among these characters, who populate Baker's typically verisimilar world with dramatic naturalism and comedic flair. Tangerine is an exceptionally funny film, achieving profundity through its comedy by juxtaposing it with a number of distressing incidents that somewhat threaten to undermine the film's plausibility, even as their absence would likely have threatened the film's existence. But as the characters themselves undermine the drama they assure us they won't bring, we witness minorities sacrificing loneliness and pain in their determination to survive - identity is forged through self-assignment and self-control, trumping both what is done to them and what they do to themselves. The greatest surprise of all in Tangerine thus comes as it shuns the identities assigned to it by a culture it dares to deny.