Looking Back: Irina Palm (2007)

The other day brought news of a beloved Brit who is in the hospital with the dreaded Covid-19. If you think I’m referring to Boris Johnson, you’ve got to be kidding. I’m referring to Marianne Faithfull. For those millennials out there who don’t know who Faithfull is, the singer-songwriter-actress with the distinctive, raspy voice had a string of big hits in the 1960s and ’70s that included “As Tears Go By“, “Broken English” and “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan“. Perhaps, though, she’s best known for her four-year relationship with Mick Jagger.

In 2007, Faithfull starred in a little film that hardly anyone saw called IRINA PALM. There, she plays Maggie, a middle-aged, frumpy widow from the quiet village of Yardley Hastings, located about 100 km north of London. Having already sold her home to help pay for her grandson’s cancer treatment, she decides to find a job so that she can send her family to Melbourne for new treatment that holds promise for the boy’s health. Maggie, however, finds that she only has one marketable skill – um, helping men get their rocks off. She finds employment at a Soho sex shop and it’s not long before she’s a hit with the guys, earning the professional name of “Irina Palm”.

I had the great fortune to attend the film’s premiere at the Berlinale back in the day and absolutely loved it. IRINA PALM is directed by Belgian filmmaker Sam Garbarski, who had made a number of Jewish-themed films early on in his career. I had brought three of those films – LA DINDE (THE TURKEY); LA VIE, LA MORT ET LE FOOT (LIFE, DEATH AND FOOTBALL); and THE RASHEVSKI TANGO – to my film festival so I went into the IRINA PALM screening hoping I could bring that film to Hong Kong too. Sadly, there’s no Jewish angle to it and I never brought it here.

After watching IRINA PALM for a second time the other night, I still liked it but I can see that both the script and the direction could have been better. With its numerous fade outs, IRINA PALM has a very European feel to it and this doesn’t jibe with its London setting. The film is billed as a drama but there’s certainly a comedic aspect to it; however, the comedic parts aren’t played up enough, and that’s to the film’s detriment. I can see, though, that the film could be remade even today, perhaps with a British director, or maybe switch the location to Paris and do the film in French. Either way, the potential is there.

The big question IRINA PALM asks is, “How far would you go to save the life of a loved one?” Certainly, Maggie goes beyond the norm but is she wrong? Watch the film and decide for yourself.

IRINA PALM is available for rental on Amazon Prime and iTunes.

Get well soon, Marianne!!

Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, April 17th, 8:30 am HK time!
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