Haiku Tunnel
review by Elias Savada, 21 September 2001

As big, overweight, balding puppies go, Haiku Tunnel, which bills itself as "an office comedy," cuddles up on its own self-impressed throw rug and pretty much stays there for a ninety-minute nap. In this case, trying to wring imagined excitement out of the wacky world of temping is about as stimulating as trying to unclog a jammed copy machine. Josh Kornbluth has taken his ten-year-old San Francisco-based working-geek-show and expanded it for the big screen. But on that road from monologue to cinematic enlightenment, Mr. Kornbluth and his younger brother Jacob (who wasn't even alive when Josh reached Bar Mitzvah age) have fashioned a paste-up effort in which the filmmakers seem to be hoping for Xerox technology to enlarge (by 125%) their low budget expectations and slender, plain vanilla script. The result is a small film that I don't expect will grow beyond its limited target audience as an art house oddity or as a training film for Kelly Services rejects. Haiku Tunnel, a pseudo-mockumentary for the nine-to-five temp crowd, is not nearly as cleaver as its creators think. I suspect Josh's nagging narration and omnipresent character (he's rarely off screen) will weigh too much on those who expect more from their temp agencies and today's budding film directors.

The elder Kornbluth plays a hapless character not unlike himself. Heck, he even calls him Josh Kornbluth. How eponymous! He plops his chubby face smack in front of the camera, telling us his story is based in the "fictional" town of San Franclisco. Wink, wink. And he disclaims that only reel lawyers were used in the making of this film. Part absurdist autobiographical simulation, part self-indulgent fantasy, the film's "hero" looks more like he ate a few too many on his lunch break. As an employee of the Uniforce Agency, every day brings new ethical and social conundrums for Josh, who'd rather sneak a few keystrokes at this job and that writing his great American novel (we're still waiting). His transient world changes when his ineptitude is immediately appreciated at the smallish tax law firm of Shelby and Mitchell. The writers (the Kornbluth brothers and John Bellucci, whose resume is completely absent from the film's pressbookódon't worry, he's real, playing a "spastic dancing nerd" in the film) have a field day playing up the S&M jokes, but they're generally pallid stabs at humor. His temporal universe comes unstuck when he's offered a permanent position on the staff, with the deal clincher coming when icy office manager Marlina D'Amore (Helen Shumaker) agrees to cover his psychotherapy costs. That must be a big contractual concern for West Coast office workers.

After crossing over from temp to perm, Josh short circuits in fits of tardiness and dunderheadedness, even though he appears to be handling the same office chores. All those habits that made him so attractive to his new employers are cast off in Josh's fitful fear of commitment. The rest of the film focuses on office politics and the growing pressure he's under to mail seventeen important letters for his stoic boss Bob Shelby (Warren Keith). Procrastination and other messy circumstances intervene; luckily Josh's fellow workers DaVonne (June A. Lomena), Clifford (Brian Thorstenson) and Mindy (Amy Resnick) quickly diagnose his illness and prescribe a cure that takes on mission: improbable seriousness. At which point Josh steps out of the frying pan into the fire of passion when Julie Faustino (Sarah Overman), mistakes the lowly office worker on an exercise in skullduggery for a fellow attorney. So the Big Lie becomes the Big Joke in Haiku Tunnel. Unfortunately, Josh is so screwed up there's not much to like of him by the end of the movie.

If I want to watch a neurotic Jewish guy throw quips at the screen, I'll take Woody Allen in New York City over Josh Kornbluth in San Francisco any day. (Brief) case closed.

Directed by:
Jacob Kornbluth
Josh Kornbluth

Starring:
Josh Kornbluth
Warren Keith
Helen Shumaker
Amy Resnick
Brian Thorstenson
June Lomena
Harry Shearer

Written by:
Jacob Kornbluth
Josh Kornbluth
John Bellucci

Rated:
R - Restricted.
Under 17 requires
accompanying parent
or adult guardian..

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