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Cannes: New laughs from Norway

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Unless you count the bald-on-top and two-toned-fringe-on-the-sides wig with which Benicio del Toro, as the revolutionary called Che in Cuba, become the revolutionary called Ramon in Bolivia, laughs have been scarce at Cannes this year. So when I heard reports of satisfying Scandinavian drollery in O’ Horten, I slid into a full house of the fellow humor-starved, happy to see the latest from Bent Hamer, who provided such satisfying Scandinavian drollery a few years ago with his Kitchen Stories.

Soon-to-be-retired railroad engineer Odd Horten, the title character played by veteran national star Bård Owe, might be a distant Norsk relative of Warren Schmidt, the pinched accountant so memorably played by Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt. Like Schmidt, Horten faces retirement with no life to fill the spaces emptied of the routine of work. But what should have been Horten’s last train run becomes a rolling series of encounters with characters quite outside his regularly scheduled life: This deadpan lonely man out of an Aki Kaurismäki parable spends a night on earth out of a Jim Jarmusch fable. And I was grateful for every unexpected, sideways moment of deadpan charm.

Bill Murray ought to grab this for an American remake.

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