Junk Mail

on April 10, 1998 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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   A sensation in Cannes, perhaps in part because Norwegian films aren't expected to be this blackly comic, "Junk Mail" is a distant cousin to the films of Finland's Aki Kaurismaki ("The Match Factory Girl"). It's not as deadpan as his work, but it's as bleakly funny. Doing a vicious number on the post office, "Junk Mail" tells the story of Roy (Robert Skjaerstad), an unshaven postman who barely bothers to do his job properly.
   He tries to let postal thieves rob him without trouble, but he ends up in the hospital after being beaten: The strap of his mailbag got stuck when he was trying to give it up. But Roy also has a romantic heart and in his inimitable way sets his sights on the deaf Line (Andrine Saether). When she leaves her keys behind, he copies them and proceeds to sneak into her house, getting more than he bargained for in the process.
   Although "Junk Mail" deals with serious matters, one being a brutal crime, its approach is entirely comedic. Even the chief villain, Georg (Per Egil Aske), is a buffoon, albeit a dangerous one. As Roy, Skjaerstad pretty much steals the show. His Roy is a likable guy but also completely crude and classless-a low-rent Mr. Bean. And the situations he gets into have some of the warped poetry of Jacques Tati, though the Frenchman would never have stooped to Roy's levels of desperation. Surrounded by rejects from an early Jim Jarmusch movie, Roy makes his way through a surprisingly scabrous Norwegian landscape, the source of much of the film's dark humor. "Junk Mail" is slight and short, which however means it doesn't wear out its welcome. But at best it's entertaining low comedy, not as easy to pull off as one might think and welcome amid the high seriousness of most film fest offerings.    Starring Robert Skjaerstad, Andrine Saether and Per Egil Aske. Directed by Pal Sletaune. Written by Pal Sletaune and Jonny Halberg. Produced by Dag Nordahl and Peter Boe. A Lions Gate release. Comedy. Norwegian-language; English subtitles. Running time: 83 min.
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