Movie Magazine International

Haiku Tunnel

USA - 2001

Movie Review By Casey McCabe

A dozen years ago San Francisco's Josh Kornbluth was an office temp and aspiring writer. Instead of creating an exotic world to take him away from the drudgery in triplicate, he followed the old axiom of "write what you know" and crafted his secretarial misadventures into a monologue titled "Haiku Tunnel". Kornbluth performed Haiku Tunnel to all the success allowed small theater monologues in San Francisco.

When Josh and his younger brother Jacob Kornbluth recently decided to pursue the world of film, they realized the best way to make a movie is to make a movie. And for material they need look no farther than one of Josh's monologues. This simple, amiable, seat-of-the-pants spirit is the guiding light of "Haiku Tunnel" now playing in theaters with big screens and tubs of popcorn.

The painfully dull American white collar office is a rich, though surprisingly underused source of comic venting and "Haiku Tunnel" is pretty much about people committed to just getting through the day. One of them is a temp named Josh Kornbluth, who figures he can afford to be a dedicated employee as long as he knows the duration of his loyalty is measured in hours. When he puts in a coolly efficient day in his new job at a large San Francisco law firm, he is asked to go perm. Perm is both a compliment and a terrifying prospect for a slack-loving temp, and once Josh has made his deal with the devil, complete with dental plan and 401k, everything starts to unravel.

Sticking to its monologue roots "Haiku Tunnel" is largely anecdotal and observational and no doubt much of it is true. Sometimes Kornbluth abandons all pretense and simply addresses the camera. One gets the feeling he's just more comfortable that way. And one suspects that he knows he's not a particularly rangy actor, even when asked to play himself. But Josh Kornbluth is blessed with a great pie face, mad hair, wide eyes and jolly girth that make him look like a refugee from a long-lost silent film. This, along with his winsome self-assurance and the general vim and spunk virtually exclusive to shoestring budgets gives "Haiku Tunnel" its low-key charm.

The Kornbluth Brothers are well aided in the effort by the mostly San Franciscan cast, particularly Warren Keith as Josh's boss, attorney Bob Shelby, and Helen Shumaker as the stonefaced but ultimately soulful head secretary Marlina. Shumaker, a talented but underemployed local actress, had to take time off from her real-life job as a secretary to play a secretary in Kornbluth's film about his real life experiences as an office temp and aspiring writer.

You can't put a price on authenticity. But sometimes that's where a shoestring budget really pays off.

© 2001 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 9/12/01

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