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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Haiku Tunnel (2001)

"When my boss was in a crisis, I made sure to arrange my features to reflect the gravity of the situation."
- Josh (Josh Kornbluth)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: February 24, 2002

Stars: Josh Kornbluth
Other Stars: Warren Keith, Helen Shumaker, Amy Resnick, Brian Thorstenson, June Lomena, Sarah Overman, Harry Shearer, Joshua Brody
Director: Josh Kornbluth and Jacob Kornbluth

MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexuality
Run Time: 01h:29m:53s
Release Date: February 26, 2002
UPC: 043396074736
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-BB+ B+

DVD Review

Haiku Tunnel is one of the first films that can easily fall under the highly specialized genre of the secretarial-thriller-comedy, assembled by a relatively new pair of filmmaking brothers: Josh and Jacob Kornbluth. Originally written and performed as a one-man theater piece by Josh Kornbluth, this is ultimately the story of a law office temp and seventeen critical letters that need to be mailed. Perhaps it might not seem like the most compelling plotline at first glance, but don't be fooled. This is an extremely funny independent film that examines the world of temps, as well as the inner workings of the office environment with a fresh approach that combines monologues, dream sequences, flashbacks and even an appearance by Satan. Plus, did I mention it makes fun of lawyers, too? The film takes place during one self-induced week of stress for Josh Kornbluth (Josh Kornbluth), a chubby, balding temp who accepts an assignment at the law firm of Schuyler and Mitchell ("Welcome to S&M!"). Josh is assigned to work for hotshot lawyer Bob Shelby (Warren Keith), who just may be the devil incarnate. Shelby is the kind of hard-driving workaholic who once wrote an 11-page, single-spaced memo at 11 P.M. on New Year's Eve to Josh's predecessor. Bob gives Josh the task of typing and mailing seventeen letters, and that seemingly simple project becomes the underlying focus for a series of comic situations, all driven by Josh's occasional narrations. Along the way Josh reluctantly develops a friendship (of sorts) with his fellow secretaries, including Mindy (Amy Resnick), Devonne (June Lomena) and Clifford (Brian Thorstenson). Of these three, Thorstenson's mincing and caustic Clifford gets some of the richer lines. There is a scene where Josh is coerced into going out for drinks after work with the group that features a great drunken ramble by Clifford about how he tried to get an apology from one of the S&M partners that is circuitous and incredibly funny. This mismatched group is constantly under the stern eye of Marlena D'Amore (Helen Shumaker), the leader of the secretaries. She is a petite but tough woman with one of the greatest steel-eyed stares I've ever seen. The character of Josh even has a love interest in the film's second half, in the form of Julie Faustino (Sarah Overman). Overman, here in her film debut, has an easy and warm demeanor that comes across well in equal doses of innocence and sex appeal. Write that name down: Sarah Overman. She is quite good in what could have easily been a throw away role.A couple of exceedingly minor characters end up being two of the more memorable.Harry Shearer has a small scene as an orientation leader, offering advice on how to fix copier paper jams that culminates with his appearance in a bondage outfit. Joshua Brody's mole-like systems administrator will probably strike a familiar chord with anyone who has had to deal with corporate techies.Josh Kornbluth's real-life experiences as a temp obviously fueled most of the things lampooned in Haiku Tunnel, but it is his dry, over-enunciation method of delivery that sells the well-written humor; it takes a special kind of comic to successfully deliver lines comparing UniBall pens to the opera Camille. Festooned in an endless stream of gaudy shirts, Kornbluth has a natural comic timing that brings to mind an amalgam of Woody Allen, Wallace Shawn and Spalding Gray. He is just one of those guys that look funny, even without saying anything.Those of you with a fear of Japanese poetry need not worry. The title of the film refers to a segment where Josh recalls his ideal temp job at an engineering firm, which involved the mysterious Haiku Tunnel Project.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Columbia TriStar has presented Haiku Tunnel in an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, from what appears to have been a relatively clean source print. This film did not have an exceptionally large budget, but the transfer does not accentuate that fact in the slightest. Colors are bright and balanced. Blacks are solid, and contrast is actually quite good. Some of the darker sequences lose some image detail, but in general the transfer provides a decent depth. There is some noticeable edge enhancement, however.Overall, a very good presentation.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The primary audio track here is a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix (the other being 2.0 surround) that is well-mixed and very clean. The opening credit sequence, which features The Pixies' classic Debaser, has a solid bass thump that is missing from the less aggressive 2.0 surround track. Imaging is subtle, with a more natural separation in the 5.1 mix, as witnessed by Marlena's trademark swoosh as it moves discretely across the front channels. The dialogue is crisp, and easily understandable. Admittedly there isn't a lot of need for 5.1 treatment on a film like this, as this is the type of "small" project that could just as easily have been released with nothing more than a simple 2.0 surround track. I applaud Columbia TriStar on beefing up this disc with 5.1.Nice.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Jackpot, The Tao Of Steve
4 Deleted Scenes
Production Notes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Josh Kornbluth, Jacob Kornbluth
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: CommentaryThe Kornbluth brothers provide a full-length, scene-specific commentary track, with Josh in the left channel and Jacob in the right. Their approach is low-key, with a steady dose of dry, self-deprecating humor. The track starts a little slow, with some apparent Kornbluth inside humor, but that quickly fades and the brothers settle into an entertaining, if slightly uneven, commentary. They offer some technical and location info, and touch on casting, but some of the best moments occur when they are commenting on the on-screen action. Hearing them extol the virtues of Helen Shumaker's eyebrows is pointless, but it's very funny. Deleted ScenesThere are 6 brief deleted scenes, none of which contain any pivotal plot or character development. A couple of them (Medieval Marlena and Fatelets) are humorous, one (Apology) ties in with a drunken rant by Clifford during the birthday sequence, and one (Coda) offers a slightly more upbeat climax. The scenes are identified as:Medieval MarlenaNeurotic AdventurerApologyPolitenessFateletsCodaOuttakesI've never been a fan of movie outtakes for some reason; I'm not sure why exactly. I guess it's because I never really find them funny or worthwhile. Regardless, this section features a collection a 6 flubbed scenes that should satisfy your itch to see actors botch their lines, if that's what floats your boat.Three trailers (Haiku Tunnel, Jackpot, The Tao Of Steve), French subtitles and 28 chapters fill out the extras.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Josh Kornbluth is a really funny guy. If you have ever worked in the corporate world, you will especially find plenty to laugh about in Haiku Tunnel. The writing and dialogue by the Kornbluths is clever and realistic, with an array of unusual and surreal comedic elements that make this more than a simple office comedy. Highly recommended.

 


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