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Cool and Crazy

Knut Erik Jensen

Heftig og begeistret

A huge hit in Scandinavia and a favourite on the festival circuit over the past year, Knut Erik Jensen’s irresistible Cool and Crazy paints a moving and funny portrait of a male choir living in Berleval, a small fishing village situated on the northern coast of Norway. It may sound like an unlikely success, even in the wake of Wim Wenders’s The Buena Vista Social Club, but Jensen’s documentary-musical casts a unique spell. The songs, which range from the sublime to the ridiculous, may not have the effortless appeal of those wonderful Cuban hits, but Jensen outdoes Wenders both as a documentarist and a stager of musical numbers.
From its opening shot of the impeccably dressed choir singing their hearts out in the ferociously cold outdoors, with a blizzard sweeping in and obscuring them from view, Cool and Crazy establishes the spirit of its subjects in a way that goes way beyond mere documentary reportage. Jensen insists that these and other such slightly surreal episodes are nothing more than recreations a similar real-life performances that inspired him to make the film in the first place. In any event, the beautifully filmed musical sequences are far more imaginative and resonant than anything to be found in The Buena Vista Social Club, whose standard concert footage gained nothing from being shot on digital video and then transferred to film.
As a documentarist, Jensen proves to be a sympathetic yet unobtrusive observer. The choir members prove more than capable of telling their own stories. Varying widely in terms of age (from 40 to over 90), background, beliefs and political and religious persuasion, the men are united in their love of song, which acts as a means of defying the elements and time itself. As one choir member puts it, ‘Sung together, song is bliss.’
Norway-Sweden, 2001. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 105 mins.

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