Noi The Albino (Noi Albinoi)

on May 19, 2003 by Chris Wiegand
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Cool and Crazy: the title belongs to another film but it's a suitable starting point to describe the confident debut of Dagur Kari, Icelandic cinema's hottest new talent. This crowd-pleasing tale of growing pains is a work of undeniable charm and unexpected gravity, endowed with an offbeat sense of humor that will appeal to fans of Jim Jarmusch and Aki Kaurismaki.

The film is set on an isolated Icelandic fjord, home to a school, a café and Noi the Albino, who sounds like the brother of Quinn the Eskimo and looks a little like Max Schrek's Nosferatu. A teen misfit in a tea cozy hat, Noi is without a doubt one of the most memorable characters we'll seen onscreen this year.

To say he's under-performing at school would be putting it lightly. Noi is usually preoccupied with pilfering chump change but on the days he does make it to class, he tends to leave his test papers blank and pass out on his desk. When he hits upon the genius idea of sending in a dictaphone to school to take his place, it's the final straw for his seething teacher. Noi finds himself expelled and takes a job as a gravedigger. Though hope has presented itself in the winsome form of new neighbor Iris, a trip to a fortuneteller suggests he is marked for death.

In this hostile, icy climate, almost everything seems out of place, from the palm tree design of Noi's grandmother's wallpaper (the film is strong on appalling retro décor) to the beleaguered titular teen himself. Writer-director Kari delights in the incongruous details and his film crackles with invention--the rifle-as-alarm-clock tactic is a particular delight.

Kari also strives to cover a fair amount of emotional ground and pulls it off handsomely, with Tomas Lemarquis' knockout lead matched by a raft of plum supporting performances. All in all, a minor-key movie but a major achievement. Starring Tomas Lemarquis, Throstur Leo Gunnarsson, Elin Hansdottir and Anna Fridriksdottir. Directed and written by Dagur Kari. Produced by Philippe Bober, Kim Magnusson, Skuli Fr. Malmquist and Thor Sigurjonsson. A Palm release. Drama/Comedy. Icelandic-language; subtitled. Not yet rated. Running time: 93 min

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