Tuesday, 20 December 2011

#15 Norway — Cool and Crazy (2001)

Sorry for the delay, Christmas and all that jazz.

Why I chose this: I decided to walk into the university library, find an Artificial Eye published DVD from a country I hadn't seen a film from and review it. This article is the result.

Cool and Crazy takes a snapshot of the members in a Norwegian all-male choir from a small fishing villiage. We learn about their loves, life and reasons for being in the choir. They come from all walks of life — a businessman, a drug addict, fishermen etc. — and their ages range from early 20s to late 90s. It is fascinating to see completely different men come together to create such beautiful and sad music.

If one is making a documentary, it is important to decide how visible the team are when shooting footage. Perhaps a Michael Moore-like style will be chosen, where the interviewer is as important as the interviewee. The crew may be silent as the subjects talk to the camera, or a fly-on-the-wall approach may be used. If you feel the need to mix and match these techniques, it should be done in a way which complements the content and message. Cool and Crazy has the potential to be a great film, but rings false due to not following that last step.

For the majority of the film, the crew stay silent and allow the choir members to sing and talk to the camera. A false note is struck (pun not intended), however, when the choir sing out in the frozen plains. These scenes, while aesthetically beautiful, feel very forced. The choir have no reason to sing in the cold like that, other than for the director to get some pretty shots, and the voices are obviously re-recorded in a cosy studio. One of the eldest members literally has icicles hanging off his nose during the last scene.

One of the highlights is the political conflict which arises when going to Russia as part of a tour and the concert which they sing in when they arrive. The difference in the members lives is very obvious during the trip; one member is a strong-willed communist, some are completely the opposite and others would be more concerned with Bjorn from the fisher's union. These differences are then set aside for the concert and the choir execute a fantastic rendition of the Russian folk piece, "Korobeiniki" (some may know it as the Tetris 1-A music).

While the documentary style of Cool and Crazy seems at odds with it sometimes, the music is beautiful, the lives of the members are interesting to hear about and the meandering pace maintains a calm atmosphere. Those interested in choirs, or music in general will come out of the film feeling rather fulfilled, others may find little substance beneath the songs.

Also recommended from Norway:
Pinchcliffe Grand Prix
Troll Hunter

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