Haiku Tunnel

There is so much to mock working in an office. The Dilbert comic strip (and short-lived television show) by Scott Adams mercilessly satirizes cubicle life. Movies like Office Space, Clockwatchers, and to a certain extent Fight Club all poke fun at the boring lives led by those people in white collars. Haiku Tunnel offers another highly amusing look at the office, this time through the eyes of Josh Kornbluth, temporary worker. Kornbluth adroitly captures the banalities and idiosyncrasies of office life in this adaptation of his monologue. At times, it's easy to tell this came from a monologue, because of the constant narration and occasional cuts to Kornbluth in front of a chalkboard directly addressing the viewer.

Kornbluth (playing himself, Jack, Six O'Clock News), in an amusing introduction, explains that the movie is fictional, taking place in the fiction city of "San Franclisco," and just happens to have a character with his name. Josh is a temp for Uniforce (as far as he can tell, the only temp for Uniforce) who always gets the job done. He is a model of efficiency, and an aspiring novelist. Everything changes when he spends a day at Schuyler & Mitchell (yes, that's S&M). His new boss, Bob Shelby (Warren Keith, The Big Lebowski, Fargo) gives him seventeen important letters to transcribe and mail immediately. This task, simple as it may sound, slowly turns into one of Sisyphean proportions. Josh just cannot muster the effort to mail them, although he manages to spend time doing anything and everything else. His quest to finish the task takes epic turns, complete with late night break-ins, clandestine phone calls, and a beautiful woman for Kornbluth,

Haiku Tunnel is funny because it so easily encapsulates office life. It starts with the actors. Kornbluth does not exactly fit the usual idea of attractiveness. He is portly, balding, has long stringy hair, and wears an endless procession of tacky aloha shirts. However, his face can contort into many bizarre expressions, usually as a result of speaking to his coworkers. Keith is great as Shelby, a man who may be a nice guy or a man of demonic evil. It is impossible to tell, because of Kornbluth's increasing paranoia. Head secretary Marlina (Helen Shumaker, Jack) is a much more sinister force. She has squinty eyes, gray streaked hair, and habit of showing up at precisely the wrong time. Shumaker speaks slowly and deliberately, and the camera focuses extremely close onto her face, giving an eerie feeling.

Whether it is an ode to the Uniball pen, frustration with a printer, Kornbluth, co-director Jacob Kornbluth, and co-writer John Bellucci refuse to dumb down the script. They throw in references to NPR and playwrights (refusing to explain them) while complaining about simple things like voice mail, lawyer names, and secretarial pool office politics. It's a strange mixture of the simple and the sophisticated, which gives Haiku Tunnel (an esoteric name that actually makes sense when explained) an undeniable charm. Kornbluth takes what is ordinary and mundane about the office, giving it a ridiculous amount of attention, raising it to a level of near-worship. Haiku Tunnel makes sense the most to people who work in offices, but is still very fun for those who do not.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 32 minutes, Rated R for language and some sexuality.

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