Volume 77 / Number 44 - April 02 - 08, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since

Koch on film

By Ed Koch

“Irina Palm” (+)

This offbeat film covers a lewd subject but is never salacious. It opens in a Liverpool, England hospital room where a young boy, Olly (Corey Burke), lies dying of an unnamed disease. With him are his mother, Sarah (Siobhan Hewlett), his father, Tom (Kevin Bishop), and his grandmother, Maggie (Marianne Faithfull).

The family is told that an experimental treatment for Olly is available in Australia. The care itself would be free, but all other expenses including travel, hotels, meals, etc., would have to be paid by the family. Their bank accounts and credit are exhausted and they are unable to pay the expected cost of 6,000 pounds.

Maggie, who will do anything to help her grandson, decides to look for a job. She is ultimately hired by a London sex establishment operated by Miki (Miki Manojlovic) where she services men by wanking them. Known as Irina Palm with the soft hands, she becomes an expert and men line up to be serviced by her.

Maggie is ultimately found out by her son and friends and their reactions to her situation heighten your interest in the film. The final resolution regarding her son’s acceptance or rejection of the money she earned in the sex trade is not revealed until near the end of the movie. Along the way, Grandma Maggie finds romance.

“Irina Palm” is a fairytale but it could happen. It’s playing at The Quad Cinema on West 13th Street in Manhattan, which has a penchant for good, offbeat movies not found elsewhere.

“Boarding Gate” (-)

I decided to see this film, directed by Olivier Assayas, after reading Manohla Dargis’s interesting review in the New York Times and also because it was playing at one of my favorite theaters—the Cinema Village on East 12th Street off Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Dargis wrote that in the movie the director “racks up one eye-catching incident after another (involving sadomasochistic sex, pooling blood and smuggled drugs) that swirl on screen with little apparent connection.”

I saw the show with two friends, and when it ended none of us could come up with a coherent description of the story nor did we understand much of what took place in the individual scenes. To be fair, there are riveting moments, one involving an escape scene in Hong Kong and another the sadomasochistic scene. Overall, however, the picture is so disjointed it failed for me.

Let me try to put together some of the pieces. The movie opens in what appears to be Paris with what I believe to be a drug partnership involving an international businessman, Miles (Michael Madsen), who is getting out of the racket. His former lover Sandra (Asia Argento), the central character, shows up and the two engage in an S&M tryst that ends in handcuffs and near asphyxiation when a belt is used to heighten the sexual moment.

Ultimately Sandra is off to Hong Kong at the direction of Lester (Carl Ng) and his wife, Sue (Kelly Lin), her bosses in a factory where she is employed. Sandra later arrives in Hong Kong, as does Lester where chase scenes take place and murders occur. By this time I gave up looking for a linear story. To me it turned into a Hong Kong flick without the Kung Fu.

Directors used to call on Abe Burrows to doctor a play with a failing storyline before it opened on Broadway. I’m thinking of offering my services to Hollywood to improve movie scripts before their films open. Until they hire me, take my advice on what to see and what to avoid. “Boarding Gate” is one to avoid.

HS said: “This was one of the most incomprehensible films I have seen. Some films are difficult because they are works of art making an obscure point. This was a crime film, but your couldn’t tell who was good and who was evil. It had a car chase, a robbery, murders both planned and casual, roofies (date-rape drugs), and bondage, but not much actual coupling. The only good part was the urban Chinese scenery, which included a sweatshop. The movie would have been a better travelogue without its lame plot. Weighing the reaction to the film, it could have been called ‘Boring Gate.’ The title ‘Waterboarding Gate’ exaggerates the film’s impact on the audience.”

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