Girls just wanna have fun

A scene from Tangerine, directed by Sean Baker.

Two transhookers are not looking for love and warmth on Christmas Eve around the crummy blocks of Los Angeles. In Sean Baker's hilarious, rambunctious and surprisingly sweet a-crappy-day-in-the-life-of-African-American-streetwalkers, they are looking for horny customers, and for their slick pimp and his new lover (who's "a fish", derogatory slang for real women). It's also a surprise that Tangerine, a guerilla-style indie film shot entirely on iPhones, has made its way to Thai cinemas (only at SF), and those keen to sample an unusual flavour of high-spirited wacky comedy with its heart in the right place, this is the one to go for this weekend.

Yapping away as they tear through the streets, Sindee-rella and Alexandra (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor) are motor-mouthed prostitutes with all the right mannerism and dubious slang, and the film consists largely of the two friends walking down the boulevards arguing in their high-pitched salvos. Sindee has just got out of jail and is now looking for Chester (James Ransone), her pimp and her boyfriend who cheated on her while she was locked up. Alexandra -- her jaws large and her build that of a linebacker -- is trying to get people to her performance at a nightclub. Cut to Razmik (Karren Karagulian), an Armenian taxi driver with a particular taste in pleasure, whose path crosses with the two transwomen in a donought joint at the film's chaotic and very funny final face-off.

Sun-baked Tangerine zips through with the raw power of an underground movie, though this is no neo-John Waters. The 1970s films about "freaks" -- misfits of various stripe, gays, whores and drag-queens in voluptuous make-up -- needed to be subversive and censor-defiant because that was their battle cry. But here we are in the post-millennium years of open same-sex relationships and transgender celebrities, and Tangerine finds unlikely tenderness amid its rough-edged energy (watch poor Razmik pick up a prostitute only to encounter the horror of his Christmas Eve). The humour is streetwise and borders on pandemoniac, and the two leads, so nutty and yet so honest in their nuttiness, slowly grow on you. If Tangerine feels lightweight at the end, so be it, because what the film wants to show is simple: even transgirls just wanna have fun.

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