O' Horten

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O'Horten, Cannes, Un Certain Regard

The "O" stands for Odd, which is a Norwegian male first name. And, in the most affectionate sense, this film is "odd." It's also outstanding. "O' Horten" is a quirky look at an Oslo train engineer, Odd Horten, who confronts retirement after 40 years. It would be a savvy buy for a U.S. distributor targeting an older, select-site audience.

Both spare and warm, "O'Horten" brims with idiosyncratic charms. Odd, by Norwegian standards, is not particularly, well ..."odd." He's a taciturn, self-effacing man -- a Norwegian bachelor farmer in Garrison Keillor vernacular. Living alone and decidedly frugal, Odd is a man of restraint and kindness. He dutifully visits his elderly and senile mother and is a Good Samaritan. Sometimes his goodness gets him into misadventures, most comically when he rescues an inebriated burgher from the streets and ends up on a blind-drive through icy Oslo.

In filmmaker Bent Harmer's perceptive scenario, we see the conflicts that a man who has lived by a strict schedule and life of discipline faces when he is confronted by the freedom of retirement. In Odd's case, retirement is a dubious gift and a sharp challenge: Adaptation is not easy.

In this big-small story, we appreciate that Odd is on a personal quest more harrowing and acute than faced by the common superhero. In short, he must overcome his old ways and re-shape himself. Can this old dog learn new tricks?

Enlivened with droll wit and framed with robust sensitivity, "O'Horten" is an amusing and entrancing personal portrait. Succinct in its visualizations and crisp in its pacing, its deferential storytelling is in sync with its Odd subject.

Cast: Bard Owe, Espen Skjonberg, Githa Norby, Bjorn Floberg, Joachim Calmeyer. Director-screenwriter: Bent Hamer. Director of photography: John Rosenblud. Production designer: Karl Juliusson. Music: John Erik Kaada. Editor: Pal Gengenbach
Bul Bul Films, Pandora Film Produktion, Scanbox Entertainment, ID Memento
Sales: The Match Factory GMBH
No MPAA rating, 90 minutes

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