Peter Hoeg's Miss Smilla is not the only one with a feeling for snow these days. Film makers have discovered that it is big business.

Snow has come to Hollywood. You can hardly go to the cinema these days without crashing into an iceberg or a snowstorm. In the wake of Smilla's Feeling for Snow, a record downfall of celluloid snow has hit the film industry. As a recent AP report very wisely said: "Without an iceberg, Titanic is just another boat movie."

Above all else, bad weather is a good plot device, and may even be the plot itself. In Ang Lee's The Ice Storm, freezing rain sets a chill on Seventies America. Alan Rickman's The Winter Guest is set on the coldest day of the year, when the sea turns to ice on the Scottish coast. As Rickman says with mind-freezing logic: "The very word `cold' suggests a need for warmth."

Atom Egoyan, who directed The Sweet Hereafter, takes a more direct approach. His icy patch is less symbolic of a chill in people's hearts than the direct cause of a school bus crashing into a frozen lake.

But how authentic is all this bad weather? Well, The Winter Guest was filmed in genuinely awful conditions which reduced Emma Thompson to microwaving her boots to guard her feet from frostbite. Take a close look at the icicles in Ice Storm, though. The film was made in the heat of spring and summer and they had to be manufactured.

What I want to know, however, is whether the Dalai Lama really made his escape from Tibet over snow-covered peaks as portrayed in Kundun - or did it just look more dramatic that way?

Whatever the answer, there is no doubt about one thing: in Hollywood, snow is hot.

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