Film

Irina Palm: Marianne Faithfull at a Glory Hole

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Nobody can reduce tawdry material to doddering quaintness like the British, but this staggeringly inane joint effort of U.K., Belgian, French, German, and Luxembourgian film financing represents a true coalition of the witless. With her dying grandson unable to afford life-saving treatment in Australia—so much for Michael Moore’s miracles of socialized medicine—a matronly middle-aged widow (Marianne Faithfull!) timidly answers a London sex club’s job posting. Dutifully divested of diva-hood, Faithfull is stationed at a glory hole with enough lotion to capsize Eliot Spitzer, instructed to polish every knob that pokes through. Voila! She finds mad money, likely romance, and newfound self-esteem, as so often happens with aging sex workers in the anonymous coin-op jerk-off trade. The whole ridiculous thing could serve as one of Lars von Trier’s lurid melodramas of female abasement, if director Sam Garbarski’s tone didn’t fluctuate between kitchen-sink miserabilism and the smirky archness of a Very Special Are You Being Served?—and if it weren’t such a pack of cozily sanitized lies. Except, of course, for the movie’s urgent warning about the hazards of “penis elbow.”

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