Sunday, August 19, 2007

IRINA PALM

IRINA PALM
Marianne Faithfull, Miki Manojlovic, Kevin Bishop

CineManila
Cinema 4, Gateway Cineplex

Irina Palm

"Irina Palm" is the alluring pseudonym given to Maggie who works at an adult shop. Well if you are smart enough, you could correctly guess the service she provides based on her moniker. But the thing is Maggie isn't exactly your typical sex worker. You see she is a 50 year old widow who lives in a quiet neighborhood in a British suburb. Driven by a desperate need to gather enough funds so her ailing grandson can seek medical treatment in Australia, she suddenly finds herself working as a 'hostess' in an establishment appropriately named Sexy World. I should probably mention that Maggie as Irina Palm doesn't come face to face with her clients but merely provides the service through a little discreet hole in a wall.

The film although dealing with an obviously vulgar topic amazingly didn't come across as crass and sleazy. It helps that the male anatomy in question was never shown on screen. The camera angle would focus on Maggie's face so her work was simply implied by her gestures. There is a certain poignancy reflected through Maggie. She is obviously embarrassed about her work and goes to great length to keep it a secret from her family and her friends. The first time she tried it she was very uncomfortable about the whole situation, openly cringing each time the client finished. But it came to the point where she managed to detach herself from her 'activity' by making herself and her environment as homey as possible. She would go to work and get into her work clothes which looked like your average cleaning lady with an apron. I suppose in some ways she did provide some sort of cleansing. She even decorated the little room with picture frames of paintings from her house. I figure that was her way of coping with the terms of her very unusual job. Soon enough, word got around and she became "the best palm in London", with men lining up outside her booth to experience her unique service.

Marianne Faithfull, a renowned singer in the 50s (way before my time so I'm not familiar with her songs) portrays Maggie/Irina Palm. Her portly matronly demeanor was perfect for the role. She was able to convey a wide array of emotions. Funny, sad, poignant, even pitiful that a woman of her age range doesn't get too much opportunities in life. But mostly it is her undying love as a grandmother to provide her ailing grandson a new lease on life which would tug at your heartstrings.

I salute the fact that Sam Garbarski, the director was able to focus on the human beings involved in these type of business. He could have easily made it a sex oriented film but to his credit, thankfully he didn't. This quirky little film will make you cringe, laugh, cry and everything else in between! "Irina Palm" was the last film, I caught at the recently concluded Cine Manila.

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