Noi(Palm Pictures, 10.12.2004)
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, there lived an exceptional, albino-ish young man named Noi. Actually, the film takes place in the north of Iceland and, by the way it looks, we may very well be in another galaxy. Noi is a surprisingly original spin on a theme that's pretty much been beaten to death: a small town boy has high hopes for a brighter existence outside the confines of his drab milieu.
Perhaps it's the fact that the film is coming from a completely unique locale that makes it so watchable and absorbing. It's certainly not in the film's structure, which is frequently brilliantly moody rather than anything else. If you're a fan of this understated technique, then Noi will not disappoint. Otherwise, you may be checking your watch from time to time -- it really can go both ways.
Still, Noi does have its fair share of romance, comedy, and tragedy. In fact, on a comedic level, one can even argue that Noi sort of channels Rushmore's wunderkind Max Fisher, although with less accomplishments and more edge due to geographic circumstances.
Iceland native Dagur Kari does a magnificent job writing and directing a film about almost nothing but with tremendous depth. We basically follow Noi -- who looks as if he walked off the set of Powder -- as he skips class, makes an effort to get drunk, and pursues Iris, a cute gas-station clerk. Noi is a pretty big pain in the ass for everyone in the town but, for us viewers, he's a pleasure to watch and certainly does a great job carrying the film. He deftly stands at the intersection between simpleton and savant.
Palm pictures have done a great job with this accomplished little film. The transfer presents the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (in anamorphic widescreen). The image is what you'd expect from a film of this caliber and I'm almost certain that Palm did the best they could do with this release. Thankfully, the film's beautiful use of washed-out colors comes across very clearly. Audio comes in Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1 Surround. The film was originally meant to be heard in 2 channels, which sound just fine on this release. The inclusion of a decent 5.1 mix is a nice touch.
We're also treated with several meaty extras. First off, we get a 20 minute making-of featurette. Here, Kari discusses the inception of the film (it was almost made into a graphic novel), as well as his directing techniques and some thematic issues, including the films tragic yet hopefully ambiguous ending. Kari is an amazingly articulate and informative speaker. This is a nice addition to the film and certainly the highlight of the DVD, in terms of extras.
Also included are 3 deleted scenes which are well-made and quite entertaining, but reasonably omitted for pacing purposes. One comedic moment in particular has Noi getting arrested for being intoxicated and subsequently trying to buy time to sober up. Rounding out the DVD is the film's US theatrical trailer, 3 Palm trailers, and some of those fancy weblinks.
Noi definitely warrants a rental, and perhaps even a blind purchase for those who enjoy cinematic diversity, moody storytelling, accomplished cinematography, intriguing locales, and wonderfully one-of-a-kind performances. -- Neil Karassik