Sex scene: Sam Gabarski's 'Irina Palm'

The banal life of a glory hole granny

In recent years, film-makers have grown increasingly interested in the sex industry, whether as a subject for feature movies or documentaries.

Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights is surely the high point of this unlikely mini-genre a sprawling, picaresque epic that revealed the camaraderie, pathos and humour as well as the squalor of the Californian porno scene in the 1970s and 1980s. There have also been such recent thrillers as Wonderland (2003), in which the main character was legendary porn star John Holmes (played by Val Kilmer) and Lukas Moodysson's grim Lilja 4-Ever. Meanwhile, British Nick Broomfield has made such documentaries as Chicken Ranch, about a Nevada brothel, and Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam.

It is easy to see why the sex industry exercises such fascination. It can be the starting point for wry and irreverent comedy witness Billy Wilder's Irma La Douce, which has a wonderful performance from Shirley MacLaine in the clichd role of the kind-hearted prostitute and for grim allegories in which brothels stand for the worst excesses of modern capitalist societies.

Sam Gabarski's Irina Palm was given a very rough reception when it was released in Britain earlier this year. The consensus among critics was that it was prurient, superficial and demeaning. The premise was a little on the far-fetched side impoverished granny becomes Soho sex worker to pay for grandson's hospital treatment. The director Gabarski was a Pole born in Germany who lived in Belgium. The film was only shot in London because that was the easiest way to pull the finance together. If you're looking for authenticity, Irina Palm most certainly doesn't provide it. However, the film is still unique surely the only heartwarming family comedy in movie history set in Soho's red light district. Marianne Faithfull gives a wonderfully matter-of-fact performance as Maggie, the fiftysomething granny from a snobbish home counties village who commutes to London everyday to work in a sex club.

She sits behind a wall, giving manual relief to clients whose faces she can't see. "The first time is embarrassing but, after that, you wank for England," one of her co-workers tells her.

Irina Palm certainly isn't erotic. Maggie goes about her work with the application of a diligent farm worker milking cows. Nor can the film be said to cast any new light on the murky, exploitative world of the sex industry. The love affair between Maggie and the sex shop owner Micky (Miki Manojlovic) adds one more improbable twist to a wildly improbable movie. Nonetheless, Irina Palm is nothing if not likeable. As if taking its cue from its doughty, nimble-fingered protagonist, it wrings every last drop of humour and pathos out of its own absurd storyline. The casting of Faithfull the quintessential Sixties rock chick and former muse of Mick Jagger as the suburban granny turned sex worker adds to the disorienting nature of the film. Gabarski describes Irina Palm as "a non-politically correct, romantic black comedy" and that just about sums it up.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

    £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

    Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

    Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

    £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

    £18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

    Day In a Page

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003