Tangerine (2015) is a feature film shot entirely on iPhone with an incredibly low budget (No Film School, 2015). The basis of the entire plot can be summarised in one sentence; A working girl tears through Tinseltown on Christmas Eve searching for the pimp who broke her heart (IMDB 2015). Despite the fairly simple premise of the plot, the story is entertaining and there is something very raw and real about the way it is told.
One of the key elements to the story is the friendship between Sin-Dee and Alexandra – the main two protagonists of the film. The final scene of the film really highlights their bond. After Sin-Dee and Alexandra have a big fight, Sin-Dee storms off and starts looking for a customer to get away with. Inside the car she goes over to, however, is not a customer but rather some transphobic assholes who piss on her out the window. Alexandra witnesses this and drags Sin-Dee off to a laundromat and helps her clean her clothes and wig, then offers Sin-Dee her own wig to comfort her.
There is something familiar about the scene and the way it is framed – the side by side shot inside a laundromat with the window to the outside world behind them. The space between them and the silence of the scene, filled only with the sound of washing machines, creates that post-fight tension. This is heightened by the way there is no editing, just straight shot silence for a fair amount of time.
This, along with the dingy setting of the laundromat, was an effective choice in showing how it was a low point in Sin-Dee’s life. The blue toned colour grading, contrasting the heavily yellow look of the film, creates a cold mood that further adds to highlighting Sin-Dee’s sadness.
What makes the scene so good is the subtle movement throughout the silence where Sin-Dee and Alexandra are looking back and forth at each other and quickly looking away when they make eye contact. It can be seen in the way Sin-Dee is constantly looking over to Alexandra that she wants her comfort, and in Alexandra’s looks it is clear that she feels for Sin-Dee but also feels guilty about what she had done earlier and is working out how best to comfort her friend. It is the subtleness and repetivness of this action that makes it so real.
The silence is broken by Alexandra giving in – ”Girl, here.” There is a certain sincerity to those words, especially partnered with the action of her taking off her wig and handing it to Sin-Dee. This is an incredibly significant gesture which truly conveys to Sin-Dee how much Alexandra cares about her; it is the act of giving her some of her dignity back.
At the point after Alexandra hands over her wig we experience the only cut in the entire scene. We cut to an outside perspective, looking into the laundromat through the window. Interestingly, there is more of a warm tone in the colour of this shot, brought in by the yellow around the walls of the laundromat, that indicate a change in mood. We hear the sound of cars passing and the main action is in silence – the world going on around their moment.
There is not much said between them as Alexandra fusses over fixing Sin-Dee up – “That hair actually looks good on you” amongst the few lines. They then go back to being silent, but it is clear the mood has changed and Sin-Dee – there is smiling and Sin-Dee reaches for Alexandra’s hand. The film then ends abruptly, the sound of the washing machine continuing through the credits. This was a really interesting take and it helps highlight the seriousness of the final scene.
Although there were a lot of comedic moments throughout the film, it seems like the director’s intention was to end on a serious, ‘real’ note. This can be seen in the way this scene shows the most realistic colour grading of the entire film.
A very powerful scene to end the film.
An interesting video interview that talks about colouring and design of the film.
IMDB, 2015. ‘Tangerine (2015)’, directed by Sean Baker, written by Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch, viewed 14 May 2017, <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3824458/>
No Film School, 2015. ‘Shooting with Only iPhones on the Sundance Hit Film ‘Tangerine’’, videorecording, YouTube, viewed 14 May 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1dJOB-uVTY>
ScreenSlam, 2015. ‘Tangerine: Sean Baker, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez & Mya Taylor Exclusive Interview’, videorecording, YouTube, viewed 14 May 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0feTnRQ2II>