Much as Buena Vista Social Club revealed a rich and unexplored world of music and culture, Cool & Crazy introduces us to a group of men who find purpose, companionship and even fame, as members of the Berlevåg Male Choir i... more »n Norway. From singing above precipitous cliffs during a raging snowstorm, to the backstage maneuverings on their Russian tour, Cool & Crazy revels in the spirit of these rugged men as they bare their souls through songs of faith and hope.
The Berlevåg Male Choir, the unlikeliest of movie stars, is a group of 30 or so fisherman--the youngest at age 30, the oldest in his 90s--from a little village on the northernmost coast of Europe on the banks of the Barent sea which has a practically uninterrupted view of the North Pole.
In Cool & Crazy one of Norway's most experienced directors, Knut Erik Jensen, captures this otherworldly environment in a majestic and profound manner. We witness the lives of a group of stout-hearted men, perched above the edge of the Barent Sea, facing the unforgiving onslaught of icy Arctic waves, dressed for their 'engagements' in navy suit jackets, black bow ties and white sailors caps. For some, this will be a film about men, for others it will be about love, or politics, or fish. Above all it is about the beauty and dignity of ordinary lives lived under extreme circumstances.
Cool & Crazy has enjoyed incredible success in its native Norway, where over half a million people have seen it. It was voted 'Best of the Festival' at the 2001 Edinburgh Film Festival-- The Guardian called it "The best movie about music since Buena Vista Social Club." Cool & Crazy made its US premiere at the Chicago International Film Festival, where it won the Gold Hugo Award for Best Documentary, before opening in theatres around the country to great critical acclaim.« less
An Interesting Documentary on the Chorus Group in Norway
Tsuyoshi | Kyoto, Japan | 11/18/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Made in 2001, "Cool and Crazy" records the daily activities of the members of male choir group in Berlevog, Norway. The town's population is about 1,200, and it is located at the seaside of the cold Nowegian Sea.The film opens with a really surreal scene; the chorus members are standing upright by the stormy seaside (with many rugged rocks and splashing white waves), singing proudly in the blizzard. Yes, the English title "cool and Crazy" is no exaggeration. The group has several generations of singers, and many are working as fishermen there, or at the factory where they slice fish with machine. This documentary film follows the life of a few selected members (the eldest being 96 years old), mainly those of the elder ones.Just as "Buena Vista Social Club" did, the members tell their own life story before the camera; one of them recollects his first love; another his days as a drug addict in the past; or another his dream of becoming an entertainer or a scholar when he was young. Among these interviews, you will hear them singing their numbers at various places, and the film ends with their tour to Russia, and the concert held there.To be honest, as a documentary, "Cool and Crazy" is too slow to many of us (by "us" I mean most of the people outside Norway). Though I know it has become a commercial hit in Norway, the film per se is not, I am afraid, as interesting as the subject matter itself. The film introduces many engaging personalities of the people living there, but the way it presents them is not particularly engaging or original. The film goes on very quietly, as if unwilling to step into the deeper emotions of the singers. Many of them say they have nothing to regret, but it is true? All you can do is accept their views, but that is the fashion the film adapted. Probably we should respect the decision.The film's greatest merit lies in the descriptions of the life of the people living in the small town of Norway, and in the occasional revelation of their own feelings about the place. All of them are proud of their group, but each member's reaction to the life in the town betrays slight difference. As a portrait of those very likable people, "Cool and Crazy" works best."
Margaret Magnus | Francestown, NH USA | 08/17/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this in Oslo in the original Norwegian with English subtitles. I hope this version isn't dubbed... It's one of the great movies that I have seen... I realized a few days after I saw it that the movie is actually a documentary, but it didn't feel like a documentary when I saw it, so I didn't even notice that that's what it is. I've never seen anything quite like it. In a small fishing village far North of the Arctic Circle in Norway, there's by some miracle a men's choir. This is just a look into the lives, thoughts and even bodies of a group of very ordinary, mostly middle-aged men whose livelihood is not easily won. The climate in this village is harsh to say the least. And to keep their sanity this choir was formed I think early in the 20th Century, and has continued to this day. The movie masterfully contrasts the very human lives of these men with the unearthly music that they come together every week to make for what audiences this village has to offer. And it does this without any commentary... the movie consists wholly of film clips of the singers being fed dinner by their wives, or in the bathtub discussing their first loves, or discussing how they love the water while they're out on their fishing boats... or arguing politics. I hadn't laughed so hard in a long time... it's a film with great heart and great hope."
(aka Heftig og Begeisteret)
freyajenta | unfortunately iowa | 04/29/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I love this movie.
perhaps it's because I lived in Finnmark, where it was filmed.
perhaps it's because I wandered Berlevåg with some of those guys and they treated us to ice cream. the scenery is beautiful, the guys are hilarious, and the singing is usually wonderful. (only on a few songs are they slightly out of tune)"
A unique film - for scandanavians of old and new worlds
William Tilton | Kingman, AZ USA | 06/08/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a documentary film, but set within such a tight, small-town scene that you find yourself treating choirmembers as though characters (indeed, personal family members) in a naturalist drama. Compare this film to "Buena Vista Social Club" (Habana's Malecon, etc.) and you'll find occasional scenes and details hilarious. Given the featherweight subtlety of this work (some have compared it to watching paint dry), insignificant occurances strike like lightning bolts out of the calm, and shock, surprise, or worry us. Okay - I'll reveal the moment of highest tension - when the group takes off in a bus toward Murmansk (?) to perform in public, I was as anxiety-stricken as though my own family members were on their way and I feared failure and embarrassment, etc. Darn it, they just didn't seem ready for the big stage! The film left me hoping for more works in this derivative (Social Club) style - and imagining other possibilities. Still, to appreciate this film, det hjaelper om du aer norskaetling (it helps to be of norwegian or scandanavian origin)! For optimal viewing, a cold, snowy winter night and a few glasses of akvavit, too, might be in order, along with a pile of furs and a fire in the hearth... and members of Chicago's Polar Bear Club might enjoy it after their annual naked jump through the ice on Lake Michigan (do they still do that?)... or it could be viewed after Fargo, though that's not one of my favorites..."
Moving and uplifting
Suzanne F. Kistler | New York City | 03/01/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I adored this film. Like others, I found it slow at first, but once immersed in the lives of these remote villagers, I was hooked. It's heartbreaking, uplifting, funny, and inspirational. What a wonderful contrast to the life we lead in the corporate, TV-driven USA. I'm sending it to all my (grown) kids."