When shamed by his grandfather, Japanese businessman Hirata (Masatoshi Nagase from Jim Jarmusch's Mystery Train) cancels a Hawaiian golfing trip, instead opting for Iceland to perform a traditional ritual at the site where his parents drowned in an accident years earlier. Traversing the frozen wastes, Hirata experiences one bizarre encounter after another.
If it's possible for a film to be too cool for its own good, then this is a slice of celluloid suffering from that condition. Colliding the two hippest bizarro cultures on the globe, this has Japanese office worker Hirata (Nagase, the rockabilly from Mystery Train) travelling to Iceland to perform a ritual at the site of his parents' death, an amazingly remote river.
Shrugging off all the strangeness, the phlegmatic Hirata starts out, road movie fashion, on a trek through the snowy beauties of the countryside. Along the way, he encounters a bewildering array of oddballs - a funeral groupie, a cabbie who wants to take part in a nativity play and reels off statistics about the country (did you know, for instance, that Iceland has more Nobel laureates and Miss Worlds per capita than any other country?), a girl (not Björk) whose singing voice can shatter icebergs, some Icelandic cowboys, a manic American couple (Stevens and Taylor) who argue through glove puppets, and a decent local who helps him arrive at mystic inner peace.
This is so hip that it casts unheard-of cult director Seijun Suzuki (Tokyo Drifter) as Hirata's granddad, while the American co-producer Jim Stark has the same character name as James Dean's in Rebel Without A Cause. However, despite the cruelly gorgeous landscape and the effects of very chilly weather on the classic car Hirata cruises in, the film's hero and setting have such a zero degree attitude that the film sometimes puts up a wall of ice which is hard to get through. Still, lovely and strange, and well worth wrapping up warm for.
Fridrik Thor Fridrikssonís indie fave remains an undiluted pleasure, a road movie combining often surreal comedy and a wealth of gorgeous visuals, capturing Iceland at its most hauntingly ethereal. An enjoyable and captivating rarity.