Sunday, November 29, 2009

EU Film Festival

So, it was a dull Sunday night and I thought what better way to spend it then by seeing a Luxembourg film, entitled Irina Palm, at the EU Film Festival 2009 in Bangkok (SF World Cinema). My “research” led me to believe the film would be about Maggie: “a working-class fifty-something who in a desperate bid to cover the cost of her ailing grandson's operation plunges headfirst into the underground skin trade of Soho London and becomes a prostitute. With a new name ‘Irina Palm’ Maggie begins working customers with a stimulatory technique so popular that patrons are soon lining up around the block to be ‘serviced’ by her”. I mean H-E-L-L-O with a synopsis like that who wouldn’t want to see it!!!

I was pleased to find that the cinema was semi-packed, I say this not because I’m a weirdo but because the previous two Bangkok (World and International) film festivals I’ve attend screenings of have had rather lacklustre attendance. So it was really good to see the populous of Bangkok finally shunning the likes of Ninja Assassin and going for something of real merit. I hope the trend continues with whichever film festival will grace our local screens next...

In a nutshell, the film did indeed live up to its billing as a naughty-granny comedy, in which an older woman is liberated and rejuvenated by an excursion into vice. Still, “Irina Palm,” directed by Sam Garbarski from a screenplay by Philippe Blasband and Martin Herron, does rise slightly above the silly clich├ęs embedded in its story. This is mostly because of Marianne Faithull, who plays Maggie, a middle-class suburban widow preparing to settle into a meek and marginal old age. To minimize implausibility and avoid making the audience uncomfortable, the filmmakers contrive to give Maggie a specialty that does not involve penetration or face-to-face contact with clients. Instead she sits alone in a room with a hole in the wall and provides a form of satisfaction suggested by her professional pseudonym, which is also the movie’s title. And she’s so skilled that men are soon lining up and insisting on her special services. Things slowly build to a predictable conclusion, and all’s well that ends well. All up, I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

For those of you reading my post now, it’s obviously too late to attend as the film festival ran from November 19 to 29 and Irina Palm was the second-last offering. I’ll now give you a little background so you’re in-the-know for next year. The festival was organised by the Delegation of the European Commission to Thailand and the Embassies and cultural organisations of the EU Member States. This year was the 18th time the European Union Film Festival brings the best of European film to Thailand, offering audiences a world class selection of drama, comedy, romance, suspense and documentary 23 films from 17 European countries feature in the programme of the 2009 festival.

Highlights of the 2009 film festival included award-winning feature films like California Dreaming (Romania), One Beloved Month of August (Portugal), Adventures (Hungary) and Ben X (Belgium). For the first time there was also a grand selection of documentary films such as Citizen Havel (Czech Republic), Sounds Like Teen Spirit (UK), La Paloma-Longing Worldwide (Germany) and Good Morning Heartache (Italy).

Getting there: From the Siam City Hotel take the BTS from Phayathai station two stops (towards Ou Nut) to station Siam, from there follow the signs along the skywalk to CentralWorld then head up to the top floor and you’ll easily find the SF Word Cinema beside a very yummy supermarket and food court. For those more active, you can easily walk there in a flat 15 minutes [ask our doormen for directions].

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