Director: Sam Garbarski (UK-2008)
“He’s dying, I’m wanking, it’s a mess,” states Maggie, aka Irina Palm (Marianne Faithfull), neatly summarising the problem with Sam Garbarski’s preposterous and emotionally bankrupt comedy-drama.
Irina Palm (the follow up to Garbarski’s feature debut Le Tango des Rashevski) centres on hard-up widow Maggie who, desperate to help finance a costly operation abroad for her seriously ill grandson, stumbles upon a Soho nightclub, Sexy World, and interviews for a ‘hostess’ job. Assuming the position involves cleaning and making tea, she’s soon disabused by owner Miki (Miki Manojlovic) who bluntly explains that he’s looking for someone to masturbate customers through a hole in the wall.
Initially repelled, Maggie is tempted by the lucrative wage and returns to the club under the pseudonym ‘Irina Palm’, whereupon she diligently applies herself to the job in hand, as it were. Unseen by her clientele, she dons a floral apron and cosies up behind the partition wall with pictures from home, potted flowers, packed lunches and lubricant. The trouble starts when Maggie’s double life attracts the attention of family and gossiping neighbours.
Built around a putatively humorous script, the film’s verité-style suggests that Garbarski is under some delusion that he’s serving a slice of gritty realism. Shot in muted tones, the camera spends much of the time probing Maggie’s downcast expression as she drifts aimlessly through the streets of Soho. Unfortunately, Faithfull creates a character so relentlessly bland and impenetrable that the film is unable to elicit any sympathy for her plight.
Accompanied by a cloyingly monotonous score, the effect is deadening, save for a few droll exchanges (Maggie develops ‘penis elbow’ from ‘over wanking’). That said, Irina Palm is almost saved by Manojlovic, who delivers a memorable performance as the brooding club owner, and Dorka Gryllus in a small but standout role as Maggie’s world-weary colleague, Luisa.
But scratch the surface and you’re left with a vapid, naïve core in a film that has precious little to say about its characters or the sleazy world it aspires to expose.
Little White Lies – Issue 17 – May – June 2008 – Page 74