Haiku Tunnel

Reviewed By Thom
Posted 09/18/01 08:49:02

"Lawyers, Faxes and Temps oh my"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

In the tradition of Office Space and Clockwatchers, comes another disaffected employment comedy. Set in San Francisco, this movie is very San Francisco. The street sensibility of San Francisco's creative and unconventional denizens are embodied by Josh (played by writer, director and lead, Josh Kornbluth) who must travel from his glorious squalor in the traditionally Hispanic and rapidly gentrifying Mission district to the buttoned down and polished financial district to make his living as an office temp.

First, a catechism about San Francisco. The Mission district in recent decades has largely been a Hispanic neighborhood, not the safest or the cleanest but by far the place to find the cheapest Mexican food. In the 80s, artists began moving in because of the cheap rents and the area started to accumulate a punk rock and politically left street culture. In the late 90's, the boom encouraged landlords to force out the old tenants who had established the culture of the area. Arts groups and non-profit groups were evicted in droves and landowners moved in shiny new tenants with big fat paychecks. This enraged much of traditional San Francisco and groups like the "Yuppie Eradication Project" began a campaign of hate propaganda. with home made posters glued to walls and mailboxes and SUV's throughout the neighborhood. A slew of new upscale restaurants and stores opened up and all the crusty old restaurants and thriftshops disappeared. Valet parking was the final surreal blow. It seemed that overnight every artist and musician had left the city and a bunch of vapid consumers with little to contribute to the culture than a pulse had taken over. The Marina district, the traditional home of Pottery Barn shopping airheads seemed to have jumped across the city and landed right in the middle of the place they most feared. But since they now owned the neighborhood, or so it seemed, they could sashay around in comfort, now that icky reality had been neatly whitewashed away.

This is the Mission that the film is set in and Josh lives in the space somewhere between the old Mission and the new Mission. (By the way, the effects of the dot bomb are now being felt. The new businesses are still there but all the people are gone).

While Josh is contemplating becoming a perm, he analyzes the pros and cons of being a temp, discovers an electronic late night confessional in the voice mail of his austere boss (played by San Francisco performance artist Helen Shumaker) and manages to integrate into the tightly knit world of the "permanent" employees. His decision to become perm won the assistance of his coworkers who become his allies as he tries to get out a pile of letters before the deadline. He got the tech support guy to help him set up a directory where Josh could keep his novel as he wrote it at work instead of transcribing the letters.

At the eleventh hour, he gets caught up trying to impress his first date in years who mistakes him for a junior partner at the law firm while he's breaking into an office trying to get the letters that printed out to a printer on the network in another office on the other side of town. It's madcap mayhem.

Josh is the kind of guy who would read "Temp Slave" or "Processed World". The real world Josh Kornbluth had recently participated in a fundraiser for the current issue of the resurrected "Processed World", a 'zine of worker dissent. Cube culture can be fun. If you've perched on the edge of sacrificing your artistic or personal integrity for the need to survive in our society, you'll welcome this cinematic refuge to validate your soulful yearnings.

Because I love the idea of this movie, the local flavor and the themes I don't want to focus on some of the negatives, chiefly that Josh the actor is not much of an actor. I think it would have been better to hire an actor to play the part of the Josh, but since Josh Kornbluth has been delivering his monologue off and on over the past ten years, he should be able to move that same performance to the screen. The writing is fantastic and he understands his character and the world he lives in but his acting is amateur at best.

That's not the point of this movie anyway, but it is the one thing that consistently annoyed me.

I highly recommend this film as another independent commentary of the tenuous relationship between a temp worker and the corporate world. This movie is definitely for the jaded.

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