The premise of this gentle existential farce from Norwegian director Bent Hamer is little more than an excuse for a series of deadpan vignettes about love, death, and the meaning of life. Forced into age-mandated retirement, longtime train engineer Odd Horten (Bård Owe) quite literally goes off the rails and spends most of the movie dazedly wandering the wintry streets of Oslo, searching a maze-like airport for a prospective buyer for his boat, chatting up the recently widowed proprietress of a tobacco shop, andin the films loveliest sequenceriding shotgun with an avuncular old drunkard who prides himself on the ability to drive blindfolded. Above all, Hortenlike his Seuss-ian near namesakeseeks a sense of purpose. Hamer, whose Kitchen Stories tipped its hat to Tati and whose Factotum made an admirable stab at Charles Bukowski, here achieves a tone somewhere in the ballpark of Kaurismäki, with Owes wonderfully stoic face rarely bending as it observes his fellow man in all his small-scale absurdities. The images, lit by the cameraman John Christian Rosenlund, have the incandescent glow of storybook illustrations. The movie, on its own modest terms, satisfies greatly.
May 22-28, 2009