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Wednesday, February 13, 2002

Cool & Crazy

Posted By on Wed, Feb 13, 2002 at 12:00 AM

The royal blue of the Barents Sea rises in roaring snow-white-capped waves crashing into the northern shores of the small Norwegian fishing village of Berlevåg as the 30-odd members of a male choir march into view. They’re bundled from head to toe in caps, parkas and boots. They sing in rich voices of the wonders and trials of Finnmark, the northernmost county of Norway, their home.

A better title for this film might be The Singing Strand Boys: Norway’s Berlevåg Male Choir. These don’t seem to be men who would describe themselves as “cool.” They’re more the tough survivors of one of the world’s coldest climates, fishermen burned and carved by the wind and the sun (“We Strand boys have to be shot,” one of the older members brags. “They say we do not die on our own.”). If they’re crazy, it’s for the love of women, fishing and singing.

Director Knut Erik Jensen’s subtitled Norwegian documentary is a sketchy story of the boys, their preparation to hit the road to perform a concert in Murmansk, Russia, and the concert itself. Jensen makes his documentary unique by studding the typical, if not requisite, talking heads and slices of life with musical sequences that play like cinematic postcards from the northern edge of Norway or understated choral music videos. Cool & Crazy documents the choir, but in a manner more like a multimedia family album.

Family albums, though, are only as interesting as the people and places in them. In this case, the people and the place are inseparable, rich and weathered by life. Cool & Crazy presents us with the stern beauties of nature and the passionate and motley characters of the choir. If that piques your interest, cool. You may end up crazy for it.

Showing exclusively at the Detroit Film Theatre (inside the DIA, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit), Monday at 7:30 p.m. Call 313-833-3237.

E-mail James Keith La Croix at


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