J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

He gets a long title for his long life. It was also eventful—and it still is. The man who blithely stumbled in and out of Stalin’s Kremlin should not have too much to worry too much about the gang of skinhead biker drug dealers looking for him. Heck, he hardly knows they’re out there. Instead, life is a bowl of Swedish meatballs for Allan Karlsson, the titular character of Felix Herngren’s The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York--UPDATE: now opening 5/8.

Karlsson’s retirement home is preparing a party for his centennial, but he really isn’t feeling it. Shimmying out the aperture in question, the oldster finds his way to the bus stop, where he inadvertently swipes a drug-runner’s suitcase. Since it is packed with fifty million Euros, he soon has the whole gang after him. However, Karlsson’s erratic behavior, knowledge of explosives, and blind stinking luck make him a formidable foe. Soon he joins forces with Julius Jonsson, a more lucid and irascible senior, as well as commitment-phobic professional student Benny and Gunilla, a gang member’s ex who is now more concerned with the elephant she is ferrying about in search of a long-term home.

Periodically, Karlsson flashes back to episodes of his unlikely life, including stints on both sides of the Spanish Civil War, service at Los Alamos assisting Oppenheimer, befriending Vice President Harry S. Truman, and defecting to and from the Soviet Union. He was also sterilized at a young age, so no love interests for him. It also helps explain his unvaryingly blasé attitude towards his daring exploits.

Obviously, Window Man brings to mind predecessor films like Zelig and Forest Gump (you could throw Being There into the mix as well)—and honestly, it never really steps out of their shadows. Still, Herngren and co-screenwriter Hans Ingemansson do what they can to differentiate their adaptation of Jonas Jonasson’s hit novel from comparative films. Wisely, they play up the subversive slapstick possibilities of Karlsson’s fascination with explosives. A lot of minor characters die gleefully macabre deaths in Window, giving it the tone and pacing of a Looney Tunes cartoon.

Robert Gustafsson shows tremendous range, but he is equally distancing as both the young and awkward Karlsson and his older and even more addled self. Still, he conveys a sense of comfort and camaraderie with Iwar Wiklander’s Jonsson. Aside from Alan Ford as the boss with anger management issues, the assorted thugs and cops are all essentially stock figures and the historical characters are entirely played as the broadest possible caricatures.

Window never engages on a deeply emotional level, but Herngren keeps all the mayhem breezy and upbeat. If you can relax and buy into all the fortuitous explosions, it offers some laidback fun. Recommended for those looking for a light weight diversion, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared opens this Friday (5/1) in New York, at the Village East.

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