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Review: Irina Palm

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But who is Maggie?


- Maggie no longer has anything very important left to live for, apart from one objective: to find money very quickly to help her ill grandson. And she succeeds, albeit in an altogether unexpected way

Review: Irina Palm

Between her son and grandson, her conflicting relationship with her daughter-in- law, between the rather grey suburbs where she lives and her crabby friends whom she meets from time to time for a game of cards, Maggie leads a rather uneventful and simple life. She is a widow and a woman of few words. Her grandson’s illness is the only drama in her life, a life that seems to be gradually nearing to an end. Until Maggie decides to find a job. We accompany the character, as she visits a quite unsavoury place in London’s Soho district, which is seeking to employ "hostesses". So here she is in the office of the brothel’s owner, Micki, who – both amused and surprised – hires her, even before Maggie understands, or we for that matter, what the job actually involves. But Maggie is intent on not shying away from responsibility. She has passed the age of prudishness and has to earn a lot of money in very little time.

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The unconventional situation the 50 year-old finds herself in is what makes the film so comical. The sparkling eyes of Serbian actor Miki Manojlovic add to this. He silently observes from afar the woman that Maggie is becoming behind the mask of "Irina Palm" – the name which he finds for her so that men who can’t see her can fantasise. Sam Garbarski succeeds on several levels and avoids falling into the traps of voyeurism or social drama, instead focusing the story on what is happening to Maggie, which on the surface reveals some details, looks or unexpected reactions.

With fine cinematography by Christophe Beaucarne and electric and melancholic music by the composer Ghinzu, Irina Palm [+see also:
film focus
interview: Sam Garbarski
interview: Sébastien Delloye
film profile
is married with the intimate journey of its character. With hand-held camera, often in close-up, the film depicts scenes from Maggie’s journeys between her home and her work, the suburbs where she lives and her family in one world and Soho and men in another. Between the two, Maggie gradually discovers her identity, unveils herself, and allows herself to be loved. To everyone’s surprise, hers included - and ours.

After a long career as a commercials director, three shorts, a debut feature, The Rashevski Tango, an ensemble film centred around several men in one family, with Irina Palm Sam Garbarski has made a simple and invigorating film, a fine portrait of a tender, prudish, funny and mischievous woman. Bolstered by the generous power of Marianne Faithfull - in a role a far cry from her rock 'n' roll image - Maggie is given an air of pride and reserve. Just a woman.

(Translated from French)


main awards/selection

Berlinale 2007 Official Competition

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