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O'Horten: Hamer's Excuse for Existential Vignettes on Everything

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O'Horten
Directed by Bent Hamer
Sony Pictures Classics
Opens May 22, Lincoln Plaza and Quad Cinema

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, and—in the film's loveliest sequence—riding shotgun with an avuncular old drunkard who prides himself on the ability to drive blindfolded. Above all, Horten—like his Seuss-ian near-namesake—seeks 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 Owe's 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.

 
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