Miao, for all intents and purposes, is invisible. She’s known only by her alias, presumably because she is so catlike — from her thin, pointy face to the way she tiptoes around inside of buildings.
She has no past, as far as we know. She squats in empty Tel Aviv apartments — the movie opens with Miao (Anat Klausner) in the bathtub of an unrented flat, clean as a cat — and deals designer drugs to Orthodox men and young clubgoers. Aside from contact with her customers, her social interactions are limited to Internet chatrooms.
But everything changes the night one of her online “friends” reaches Miao on the phone. Alex wants to break down Miao’s guard, and they even meet for a brief and eventually fruitless fling. But when Alex is injured beyond recognition in a bombing at a nightclub — an attack witnessed by Miao — things start to head straight toward the Twilight Zone.
Frozen Days has been billed as an homage to Roman Polanski and Alfred Hitchcock, and the careful attention to camera angles and lighting (or lack thereof) certainly attempts to take it that far.
As the only person who can identify Alex — though in true Hitchcock fashion she has never actually seen his face in the light — Miao gains entry to his apartment and begins to assume his life.
But assuming his life becomes a downward spiral as the cat becomes a mouse — chased by the identity of this mysterious person. She answers his calls, represents him for his apartment association, even shows up at his job, in uniform. Eventually she, like everyone else, can no longer discern the difference between the two.
Though Frozen Days’ director Danny Lerner clearly admires Hitchcock, the end result is a bit clumsy. Miao’s transition to Alex is gradual, but it feels like a key turning point — a haircut — was eliminated from the film’s final cut. Shot almost entirely in black and white (one scene, when Miao takes a hit of the drugs she’s selling, is overlayed with a dark purple and extra background noise), the lack of color does a better job of keeping Alex (and us) in the dark.
It is a constant reminder that this cat works best in the night, where most of the scenes take place.
Klausner takes on her role beautifully, and the character fits her well. That Miao allows herself to be taken advantage of by men, whether they be her customers or Alex, is the one failing in her catlike persona.
In some ways, Frozen Days feels more the domain of Rod Serling than Alfred Hitchcock, and in some ways that works. The suspense didn’t keep me at the edge of my seat, but I sure as heck wanted to know who Miao really could be.