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The Last Joint Venture

Adaptation of a Norwegian cult novel published in 1983 enjoyably follows two spaced-out weed dealers in Oslo coming to terms with the end of the hippie era as they struggle to sell their last -- and vast -- quantity of smoke.

With:
With: Kristoffer Joner, Nicolai Cleve Broch, Kare Conradi, Marte Germaine Christensen, Gard Eidsvold, Bjorn R. Sundquist.

The sun convincingly sets on the Age of Aquarius in Norwegian slacker pic “The Last Joint Venture.” Adaptation of a Norwegian cult novel published in 1983 enjoyably follows two spaced-out weed dealers in Oslo coming to terms with the end of the hippie era as they struggle to sell their last — and vast — quantity of smoke. Well-acted, intelligent pic by helmer Ulrik Imtiaz Rolfsen (“Izzat”) was a late-summer success at home and should puff its way into fests slots and even a commercial engagement or two.

After a short intro, set in 1971, that outlines the dreams of smalltime drug dealers Carl (Kristoffer Joner) and Robert (Nicolai Cleve Broch), the story jumps to 1979, where the possibility of selling 45 kilos of prime quality weed has the two ready to throw over their one simple business principle: They sell only small quantities of marijuana and never touch hard drugs. The sale will give them the chance to realize their dream of a commune in the country. They just need to borrow some money, resell the stuff quickly to their customers (and find some new ones as well), and pay off their debt.

That sends them on a picaresque race against the clock through Oslo’s underworld and the dark forests of Norway, where they have a Robin Hood-like hideout. Their task is complicated by a cokehead financial whiz, Glen (Kare Conradi), and a police officer nicknamed Stalin (Bjorn R. Sundquist).

The pic’s greatest achievement is that its protags and the times never become caricatures — a hard balancing act, especially for a film with comedic aspirations. Though the screenplay is peppered with humor, it never loses its semblance of reality, and even Carl and Robert’s euphoric, fume-induced silliness is absolutely believable.

Sign-posted along the way are indications that the ’80s are fast approaching, including an unhealthy focus on money and an overdose of hard drugs. As the pic progresses, helmer Rolfsen convincingly turns the joys and carefree attitude of the New Age into something of the past — though the extended all’s-well-that-ends-well coda would have been more effective if relegated to a simple intertitle.

Joner (“Next Door”), one of Norway’s finest actors, is perfect for a role that requires equal measures of angst and apathy without appearing heartless, and Broch (“Uro”), hidden behind a scraggly beard, arguably gives his finest performance. Ensemble work is strong.

Widescreen lensing of Gaute Gunnari drains the pic of colors, in step with Rolfsen’s direction, and uses props in the frame for playful visual jokes (Carl and Robert’s discovery of a waterbed is a treat). Production and costume design find the right balance between historical correctness and looking like leftovers from “Hair.” Soundtrack features not only “Children of the Revolution” but also work by David Bowie and Popul Vuh.

The Last Joint Venture

Norway

Production: A Nordisk Film release of a Maipo presentation and production. (International sales: TrustNordisk, Hvidovre, Denmark.) Produced by Synnove Horsdal. Directed by Ulrik Imtiaz Rolfsen. Screenplay, Thomas Seeberg Torjussen, Mette Marit Bolstad, based on the novel by Ingvar Ambjornsen.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Gaute Gunnari; editor, Vidar Flataukan; music, Knut Reiersrud, Stein Berge Svendsen; art director, Stein Elvestad; costume designer, Karen Fabritius Gram; sound (Dolby SRD), Morten Solum; assistant director, Tonje S. Rolland; casting, Celine Engebrigtsen. Reviewed at Mannheim-Heidelberg Film Festival (competing), Nov. 7, 2008. (Also in Haugesund Film Festival -- opener.) Running time: 82 MIN.

With: With: Kristoffer Joner, Nicolai Cleve Broch, Kare Conradi, Marte Germaine Christensen, Gard Eidsvold, Bjorn R. Sundquist.

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