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Johnny Berlin

8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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.

Review

A short, sharp profile of a man at once fascinating and vaguely troubled, Johnny Berlin is a nearly-an-hour well spent with middle-aged raconteur Johnny Hyrns, nicknamed for the refurbished luxury train he works as a porter on that runs from Seattle to Los Angeles. --Variety, 15 June 2005

The film itself is structured like one long rambling conversation, which gives it such a great personality that you can't help getting the feeling that it's just you and him. There's a slight feeling though that something is buried deep within this character (good or bad we're not sure) but this doc has real warmth and a style that celebrates the "everyman" and highlights the fact that poetry exists everywhere. --Revelation Perth International Film Festival


Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Jon Hyrns
  • Directors: Dominic DeJoseph
  • Format: Color, NTSC
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: IndiePix
  • DVD Release Date: March 15, 2007
  • Run Time: 55 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000O76WV0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #462,129 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By poet-magus on April 24, 2009
Format: DVD
I found "Johnny Berlin" linked on Francis Ford Coppola's Web site (zoetrope.com) as one of his "Zoetrouper films on DVD." So, I am in pretty good company when I say that this film by Dominic J. DeJoseph is poignant, entertaining, witty, and well worth watching. DeJoseph is a masterful filmmaker and he selects his subjects with an eye towards the unique and unusual. Paradoxically, these qualities are often to be found in the commonest of people and situations. "Johnny Berlin" is no exception. Watching this film for me was like opening a super-fresh bag of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups at Halloween and digging in: once I began to indulge, I couldn't stop; the scenes were that good. I could relate to this porter, this Johnny Berlin, and his road trip through scenery and psyche. Is he Everyman? If so, maybe Everyman is weirder than we think. Watch the film. If you do, I imagine you will begin to know Johnny Berlin. And your soul will be that much semi-happier for the experience.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Margaret Sky on March 28, 2007
Format: DVD
I viewed "Johnny Berlin" several times and each time it was just as enjoyable as the first. If you love trains, you will especially enjoy this film. The director takes you aboard a beautiful 1930's mahogany-interior Pullman-car train as if you just purchased a ticket for this great trip. The intriguing conversation with the porter, Johnny Berlin, who has the ability to mesmerize you with his genuine on-going conversation and stories, will make you laugh, cry and utterly astound you. You have to see it to believe it. One person inhabits most of this film, Johnny Berlin. You will be captivated as you watch this film. You will feel as if you are actually riding this great train to its destination. This film is an unusual and brilliant work of art.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By John Damien on May 2, 2008
Format: DVD
You may end up crying-laughing, but is there any shame in that? This is one of the greatest character-portrait documentaries ever made, and it's also one of the funniest!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Federico on October 12, 2009
Format: DVD
First Jack Kerouac, then Tom Waits, and now ... Johnny Berlin. This melancholy portrait of a train porter who's dreams have been stilted by economic hardship is made in the tradition of the early films of Errol Morris, Les Blank, and Werner Herzog. The man in the porter's hat who is the subject of this documentary would be considered troubled by some, but he finds his way past his own demons by using the smokescreen of humor. In these times, Johnny Berlin is an imperfect hero with the perfect solution.

This is the first in a series. The second is here ... Johnny Berlin Part 2: Notes From the Dumpster
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