The harshness and isolation have produced an Icelandic Jimmy Stewart to guide the determined young foreigner on the perilous last leg of his journey.
Before you succumb to despair in this long Hollywood summer, you may want to take a movie lover's unthinkable step: rent the newly released video of "Cold Fever." It will, of course, be diminished by the small screen, but you will be well rewarded. This is a one-man road movie--a funny, touching, eccentric, cross-cultural feast. On one level, nothing happens in this movie; on another, everything does.
Atsushi Hirata is a successful young Japanese businessman about to enjoy a golfing vacation in Hawaii. We see quickly that he is imprisoned in a world of corporate imperatives. He must perform, he must do his duty, and finally, pushed by an elder, he must cancel his treasured vacation in order to administer burial rites for his parents, who died in an automobile crash while living in Iceland. Only he can bring peace to their spirits.
The melancholy young man is lifted by jetliner out of one culture and deposited in another utterly alien one. The beauty of this movie, and its gift to the audience, is the extraordinary immediacy and strength of the cultures it evokes.
In ignorance, Atsushi has chosen to cross the country during the overwhelming winter season. Propelled by filial obligation, he plows toward his goal by cab, by car, by horse, and on foot. By the time he arrives, we are quite literally shivering in our seats from his journey through horizontal sleet blowing across an already frozen landscape.
Thick-coated horses stand in the wind. Night hovers continually, lightened only by the ubiquitous whiteness. Alone on a one-lane road of rutted ice, Atsushi has random encounters with people who sing--surely to keep the frigid winter at bay. They sing in barns, at funerals, in the backs of trucks as they negotiate a countryside of white buildings, white water, and white ice. "Does anyone know you are going this way?" asks a road sign that echoes our anxiety.
He lands finally in a bar where the villagers drink "Black Death," the national sedative, and proudly sing American cowboy songs. There he meets an old man who offers help. The harshness and isolation have produced an Icelandic Jimmy Stewart to guide the determined young foreigner on the perilous last leg of his journey.
Atsushi brings great dignity to his quest, and the rituals he performs for his parents are beautiful. His search is a majestic obligation that is the only and very ample thread on which the filmmakers hang their acute observations of a hostile climate and the culture created by it. How rare it is to be both profound and light.
Credit the cross-cultural team of independent spirits who imagined this story, and Masatoshi Nagase, who carries it as Atsushi. As he says at the end, "Sometimes the road you take leads you to a place that's not on any map." He's right, and this time it's a very good trip.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 500
Rating : NR
Studio : Isicle Films
Running Time : 1h25m
Copyright (c) Illusion
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