Marianne Faithfull (above) as Maggie, the star of Irina Palm.
It is not our practice to sit around watching movies, and in our page’s now 1 year history, we’ve really only discussed 1 film at length: Layer Cake. As for Layer Cake, the exception for us, our mentions of the subject have not been limited to movie discussion. Layer Cake, a film but first a novel with a sequel which we hope is still close to completion, is of extreme interest to us because it is the very genre we write in and find most interesting. It’s not the style we write in, as we consider the 1st person narrative the epitome of junk fiction, not literature. That said, drug store fiction can be extremely well done and gratifying while being unworthy of a Pulitzer, as Layer Cake is.
In the coming weeks, we plan on writing about a few films. Not bullshit, make me gag, commercial garbage. Like The Tourist. WTF was that? We’ve seen a few gems that we feel are off the beaten path. Like a recent Crack family movie selection called Irina Palm (2007), a Sam Gabarski film starring Marriane Faithfull and Miki Manojlovic.
A quick narration of the circummstances are in order. I like to scan IFC and Sundance looking for things to tivo, not that it usually amounts to much. Last week, I notice a film on Sundance (Irina Palm). The description was compelling: “comedy, drama. A grandmother goes to work at a sex club to pay her grandson’s medical bills.” Now I think very New York-centrically. And sometimes, I’m afraid, with my dick. I immediately crafted this little fantasy about the movie from reading between the lines about the film. In my dim view, New York City is the only real city in the world, and the only one with sex clubs. And every other person here is Russian, so the name Irina makes sense. What about the grandmother part? Well, sex club implies some level of hot. Heather Graham is my favorite “old chick” at a supposed 37. If Heather Graham had a kid when she was 16, and her kid had a baby at 16 too, then a 37 year old, still hot chick could conceivably have a grandson with medical bills.
So I sell this film to my wife. “What’s it about?” She asked.
“A sex club.”
“New York. A woman gets a job in a sex club to pay her grandson’s medical bills. She’s probaly late 30’s, or 40. You know, like Heather Graham.”
“Heather Graham is in it?”
“Um…like Heather Graham.”
First of all, Marianne Faithfull is nothing like Heather Graham. She’s a grandmother in the strictest sense. She’s about 60, but she looks 65. NY? Nope. Not even close. London. We liked both of these aspects of the film, and in the end, know the film was infinitely better this way.
The beginning looked really bleak for grandma. Her son is British trash. He’s a deadbeat who sits around his flat in a wife beater smoking cigarettes, helpless to the fact that his son needs a trip to Melbourne and some crazy procedure within 6 weeks or it’s over for the kid. But grandma is a do-er. She heads to the bank and begs for a loan. The agent tells her she’s totally tapped out and has no collateral to borrow against. So she goes to an employment agency and that agent tells her she has absolutely no skills and her prospects are grim.
So grandma is walking through the streets of London and sees a sign that says “Hostess Wanted. Excellent Rates.” She goes in and talks to Miklos (Miki Manojlovic) who asks her if she knows what a euphemism is. And he asks for her hands (below). Impressed with her soft hands, Miklos goes on a little about euphemisms and explains that hostess is a euphemism for cock stroker, in not so many words.
“Can you wank men off?”
So grandma is like, “huh?”
Miklos finally has to give her the universal sign for the handjob. Grandma is appalled, but the pay is good. Six to nine hundred cash a week or better. Grandma really wants the kid to get that operation. She hedges and waffles but the next day, she reports for work. Miklos leads her to her work station. It’s a stark, metallic room that resembles a chamber in a submarine. He introduces her to Luisa (Dorka Gryllus), a pretty-ish Turkish (?) immigrant who is there to show her the ropes. My wife was like, “Um, I don’t understand. Where are the tables where the men lay?” So fucking hilarious. Because there were no tables. Just a couple of holes in the wall.
“Babe, there are no tables.”
“You see the holes? That’s how they do it.”
“What?” This girl is so naive it’s precious.
“Those are glory holes. You stick your dick through the hole in the wall, and they jerk you off.”
“GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!!!! THAT’S REAL??????”
“How do you even know about that?” she asked.
“They have it in porn.”
My shocked little wife? She is at once disgusted, repulsed and fascinated, and it was priceless. I have never seen such a reaction from her when watching a film in our 12 years together.
So Luisa gives grandma a few tips of the trade, squirts some lotion on her cock hand, and presses this button to make a red light go on. Then a cock pops through the hole (out of camera shot). You see Luisa work that rod and within a few seconds, the guy comes. Luisa says “see? it’s easy.” Grandma Maggie begs her to do 1 more and Luisa is like, ‘it’s all you, kid’ so now grandma is alone in the cock hole room stroking out like a band of epileptics.
Her and Luisa become friends and they start going out for drinks after their “shift.” Luisa seems pretty cool, and she looks okay, so if you could see her, you’d probably grab a handjob off her. These dudes in the club get worked up by strippers and then they pop some change in a slot, jam their dicks in the hole, and bing bang. But they never see who jerks them. Grandma takes to the trade with alacrity. Pretty soon, she’s got a line of anxious dicks waiting to get taken care of. And poor Luisa can get nary a dick anymore. Dripping with irony, no?
Miklos, or now Miki, because he likes her, tells grandma he’s giving her a stage name because it’s good for business, and she needs a name for marketing purposes because she’s become the best cock stroker in town. How does he know? By the size of the queues. Oh, and because, as he tells her, “I tried you out.” That was the best. From the moment he grabs her hands early on, we smelled it coming. Still, my wife wanted to crawl under the couch. Me? I was laughing my ass off the whole time, and honestly, there isn’t one overt joke in the entire movie. This flick is downright grim at times. Luisa gets fired because these pervs only want to get worked by the famous “Irina Palm.”
Grandma hates that Luisa gets fired because of her and Luisa is pissed. She blasts grandma for taking her job. Grandma begs Miki to take her back. He won’t. It’s business. So grandma plays on her leverage, and tells Miki she needs 6,000 cash advanced or she’s quitting. He gives her the cash and she gives it to her son. Now this idle loser is so upset that grandma won’t tell her how she got the money, he follows her to work and then makes all kind of problems for her, until his grateful wife calls him a “sanctimonious prick” who needs to put their son first like Maggie did.
There are also these nosy neighbor bitches that keeping hassling Maggie about where she works. The ring leader is a total cunt. So after grandma has fully taken to the job and has gone so far as taking down pictures off of her living room and nailing them up to her glory hole wall at work, she goes for tea with these bitches and announces the secret: she wanks men off. Also, she’s the fucking best at it. Best in London. And she is proud.
The chief cunt in charge who condescends to her all movie tries to crack on grandma about it at the market. Grandma calmly blows this old lady’s entire spot up in front of more nosy bitches. Her daughter-in-law drops by to thank her and give her a ticket to Melbourne. Their once frigid relationship is now rosy. Grandma packs her suitcase and heads to Melbourne, we presume. But oh no, she’s not going. After all, she’s the famous Irina Palm, and London’s pervs need her hand action. There’s also the fact that she and Miki have fallen in love.
So what if the film was edited so poorly that in every scene in the sex club the same techno track was on? We think it was a good track. We think the handjob montage half way through was also quite good. One classy perv even threw his overcoat up against the wall to make himself a nice little privacy tent. Nice touch. At about 1 hour and 40 minutes, when the final credits roll, I was like, “that’s it?!”
I rarely say such a thing about a movie, but Irina Palm? Definitely 2 thumbs up.