“I have a weak bladder when it comes to this sort of stuff, so be careful,” “Tangerine” director Sean Baker warns at the beginning of his trip inside the Criterion closet, and though he doesn’t get that excited, his enthusiasm is infectious nonetheless. As Magnolia mounts pathbreaking Oscar campaigns for transgender stars Kitana Kiki Rodriguez (for Best Actress) and Mya Taylor (for Best Supporting Actress), his choices are a reminder than his sun-kissed L.A. adventure, shot on an iPhone, is rooted in the vernacular of the art film.
Funnily enough, of the growing pile of Blu-rays and DVDs he selects, it’s Mike Leigh’s “Life Is Sweet” (1990) and “Naked” (1993) that Baker says influenced “Tangerine.” We learn that his father’s favorite movie is René Clair’s 1942 romantic comedy “I Married a Witch,” with Veronica Lake and Frederic March, that Eric Rohmer’s “Claire’s Knee” (1970) inspired him in film school, and that his next project involves kids—which leads him to select Ken Loach’s coming-of-age classic, “Kes” (1969).
By the time he pays tribute to the late Chantal Akerman, to the point that he almost chokes himself up, it’s clear that Baker is a serious cinephile, even if he gets a little greedy in the sheer number of selections. Who wouldn’t?