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Overall Rating

Awesome: 19.44%
Worth A Look: 25%
Pretty Bad: 12.5%
Total Crap: 1.39%

7 reviews, 30 user ratings

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Snow Falling on Cedars
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by Stephen Groenewegen

"Frozen Out"
3 stars

Snow Falling on Cedars is based on David Gutersonís best-selling novel of the same name. The book has extraordinary depth. Multiple characters from varying cultural backgrounds tell different stories, or just contribute their piece to the background murder puzzle. Both book and film are ostensibly set during a criminal trial in a remote American fishing village, cut off from the rest of the world by a snow blizzard. But the story drifts in and out of the past and present, and is partly set in a US-Japanese internment camp during World War II.

Director Scott Hicks spent a long time following up the international success of Shine. He reworked Ron Bassí conventional, chronological screenplay, and let the bookís dreamlike flashbacks dictate the structure of the film. The book doesnít have a main villain or hero - the key characters are generally as mixed-up as eachother, and what humour there is comes through the characterisations. To give the film a more standard Hollywood focus, Hicks concentrates on the young journalist Ishmael (Ethan Hawke) and his unrequited crush on childhood sweetheart Hatsue (Youki Kudoh), wife of the Japanese-American man accused of murder.

The film covers virtually all the bookís events in carefully planned and beautifully composed scenes. These scenes are so short, so completely perfect, that you donít get a chance to feel anything. The short scenes also mean the talented cast (which also includes Rick Yune, Sam Shepard, James Cromwell) have little time to make an impression - itís a relief when Max von Sydow wrestles control for a moment to allow his defence lawyer time to make a memorable closing address. Without characterisation, thereís also little or no humour. And a film without humour is
usually taking itself too seriously.

The murder mystery unfolds clearly on screen, but the ending has been slightly embellished by Bass and Hicks, and the final moments are over-written and sentimental. A haunting score (James Newton Howard) draws some of the short, choppy scenes together. Although Hicks and Bass have done a good job pinning down the events in the book, they havenít allowed us into the minds of the characters, so itís hard to relate to what they feel. The result: a lot to admire (especially Robert Richardsonís exquisite wintry cinematography), but little to involve you.

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originally posted: 02/27/00 16:27:46
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User Comments

1/09/09 Anonymous. so beautifully shot, the story and message of sacrifice is well-done and heartbreaking. 4 stars
1/07/08 Casey The book is much easier to understand than the movie. 2 stars
1/01/06 Michael Disjointed Movie 2 stars
10/27/05 rhiannon worthnothing very emotional,greg is silly! 5 stars
10/06/05 Gavin Liked it a lot. A movie for anyone who understands what it is to have loved and lost. 5 stars
9/26/05 R.W. Welch Slow and too artsy, but nice cinematography. OK story line. 3 stars
4/27/04 Yilly Great love story. Although, I wished it made it more suspenseful. Hatsue+Ismael forever! 4 stars
1/08/04 A F Good art direction. Doesn't keep you on the edge of your seat though. 4 stars
12/08/03 Arthur Refreshing to find a tearjerker that actually moves me. 5 stars
6/17/03 Erin sad but beautifully and so emotional 5 stars
3/26/03 Jack Sommersby Brilliantly photographed yet emotionally inert. Another Hicks debacle. 2 stars
1/31/03 Josh Not read book - not confused at all! Cinematic symphony! - perfection 5 stars
4/12/02 Amy If I hadn't read the book first, I'd be totally confused. 3 stars
2/27/02 natasha the story gently unfolds with sensitivity and subtlety unmatched in recent memory 5 stars
1/14/02 Andrew Carden For The 1st Time In Film History: A Love Story That Actually Works! 5 stars
6/25/01 Shine Part Duex Great film. Although un accessable to most because its so fucking SLOW. 4 stars
5/01/01 summer its ok. not too interesting 3 stars
2/25/01 Justin Goll Scott Hicks has crafted a beautiful masterpiece of sensitivity and introspection. 5 stars
1/25/01 Terrie Smith Robert Richardson's cinematography; Max Von Sydow's acting save this moody film. 4 stars
12/21/00 Jason F the only reason i watched it was for a report on the book and the movie 3 stars
5/21/00 Jess Great film. Too bad Richardson didnt when the Oscar for this. Great actors too. 5 stars
2/28/00 B it was too long and boring 1 stars
2/26/00 Joanie Good story, followed the book well. But why Ethan Hawke? 4 stars
2/02/00 Vanessa Bdadham A tragic, moving beauty. 5 stars
1/30/00 Neil Skarich Too many flashbacks/not enough character development/over directed/visually over contrived 3 stars
1/09/00 Z the movie really moved me and got me thinking 5 stars
1/07/00 Michael McLennan A film that is exceptional for its rendering of detail. 5 stars
12/27/99 gopher sumptuous, moving and affecting 5 stars
12/26/99 Kent Mark The movie was great, i would watch it again. 5 stars
12/19/99 schmo-3 The style seems to overwhelm the story. 3 stars
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  22-Dec-1999 (PG-13)
  DVD: 30-May-2000



Directed by
  Scott Hicks

Written by
  Ronald Bass
  David Guterson

  Rick Yune
  Ethan Hawke
  Max von Sydow
  Youki Kudoh
  Anthony Harrison
  Sam Shepard

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