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MOVIE REVIEW

'Cold Fever' an Amiable Spiritual Journey

May 23, 1996|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Fridrik Thor Fridriksson's "Cold Fever" proves deceptive, beginning as a rambling account of a young Japanese businessman (Masatoshi Nagase, as droll as he was in Jim Jarmusch's "Mystery Train") coming to Iceland to perform a traditional memorial ceremony in honor of his parents. Seven years earlier they apparently drowned in what could be Iceland's remotest river.

Fridriksson and his co-writer and producer Jim Stark (who worked with Nagase on "Mystery Train") appear to be working up a kind of affectionate travelogue, admitting that what Iceland has to offer is mainly endless vistas of snow and ice but emphasizing how nice and friendly the people are. You get the feeling you're watching a minor Aki Kaurismaki movie while watching Nagase's Hirati engage in a series of mildly amusing encounters with the hearty locals--although Lili Taylor and Fisher Stevens, no less, do pop up to steal Nagase's car.

Yet just as "Cold Fever" is beginning to seem as slight as it is sweet-natured, it shifts gears as Nagase approaches his destination and meets Siggi (Gisli Halldorsson), an older man with a warm, mystical nature. Siggi becomes Nagase's guide to what is for him uncharted territory both geographically and spiritually. What started out as a journey undertaken only to please his elderly grandfather becomes for Hirati far more rewarding than simply fulfilling a duty.

If "Cold Fever" takes too long to come into focus to be fully satisfying, it nonetheless has an undeniably endearing quality. It also looks great and has a driving, eclectic music track.

* Unrated. Times guidelines: The film is suitable for all ages.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

'Cold Fever'

Masatoshi Nagase: Hirati Atsushi

Lili Taylor: Jill

Fisher Stevens: Jack

Gisli Halldorsson: Siggi

An Artistic License presentation. Director Fridrik Thor Fridriksson. Producer Jim Stark. Executive producers Fridriksson, Christa Saredi, Reinhard Brundig, Peter Aalbaek Jensen. Screenplay by Stark and Fridriksson. Cinematographer Ari Kristinsson. Editor Steingrimur Karlsson. Music Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson. Production designer Arni Poll Johansson. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes.

* Exclusively for one week at the Nuart, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 478-6379.

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