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cover: Johnny Berlin (2005)

Johnny Berlin (2005)

Director(s): Dominic J. De Joseph

Theatrical Release: 2005

Cast: Jon Hyrns

Genre(s): Documentary, biography, Comedy, Dean's List

Countries: USA

Location in store: Documentary

(1 / 1)
Ant Rating
Running Time: 55m.

With a dry wit and self-effacing humor, as well as an endearing eccentricity, Jon Hyrns gives voice to his life and dreams in Dominic J. DeJoseph's hour-long documentary, narrating a journey that traverses much of the West Coast by 1930's Pullman car. The camera is silent witness to a monologue delivered by 40-something Hyrns, whose job as a porter on a dying breed of luxury train endowed him with his nickname, Johnny Berlin. A sad-eyed wanderer with a quick tongue, who counts punk rock and pilgrimage among his main influences, Johnny still hasn't figured out what to do with his life. In trying to do so, however, he has managed to do quite a bit, which he describes as he goes about his never-ending tasks of changing sheets and battling dust. Johnny is engaging on just about any topic, from his love for strawberry milk to his somewhat-lacking love life, and his tales of get-rich-quick schemes are particularly hilarious: a deadpan Johnny details the slightly morbid story of once trying to increase his father's life insurance plan to garner himself a more robust inheritance. With big dreams of finishing his novel about a man who decides to roll across the United States, Johnny is a gravel-voiced, diamond-in-the-rough character, assuming literary proportions of his own. The low-fi, talking-head documentary style of the piece allows the charismatic, melancholy central figure to take center stage. This approach is a departure for director DeJoseph, whose credits include music videos for R.E.M. and Tilly and the Wall, as well as "The One Dollar Diary," a digital video portrait of Wim Wenders.