Cold War

zimna_wojna_ver2STARS2.5Cold War is a clever title.  Yes, it clearly refers to a time period.  Pawel Pawlikowski’s love story begins in Poland in the aftermath of World War II.  However, it could also refer to the chilly relationship at its center.  Zula (Joanna Kulig) and Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) are musicians.  They meet in 1949.  Musical director Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) is a pianist holding auditions for a traditional folk song and dance troupe.  Music plays an important part in the lives of these entertainers and it often underscores the striking visuals.  Zula isn’t the best singer, but Wiktor is infatuated by the sultry blonde.  He hires her.  The impropriety of an older teacher lusting after his young student is a bit unsettling at first.  Those feelings are somewhat assuaged later when we learn that Zula isn’t the innocent that she appears to be either.  She’s not to be toyed with. There’s a rumor that she killed her father.

This isn’t a sentimentalized portrait but rather a tempestuous affair highlighted by bitter disagreements.  Neither character is what they seem.  As their connection deepens, their show becomes a hit and the state appropriates their production for propagandistic purposes with massive posters of Stalin behind them.  Unhappy with the turn of events, Wiktor and Zula make a pact to flee and reunite in West Berlin.  Then she inexplicably stands him up.  They will meet again but it’s years later.  Incredibly over an efficient 85 minutes, the picture chronicles 15 years of a relationship that traverses across Poland, Berlin, Yugoslavia, and Paris.

This tale of star crossed lovers without children is fictionalized but director Pawel Pawlikowski’s based the pair on his own late parents.  His work has received many accolades.  His last feature, Ida, won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2015.  So too has Cold War garnered Oscar nominations in 2019 — 3 to be exact: Foreign Language Film, Directing, and Cinematography.   In an interesting coincidence, it will compete against Alfonso Cuarón’s even more heavily nominated Roma, another black and white movie inspired by the director’s own life.

Cold War is indeed highlighted by stunning black and white camera work by Lukasz Zal. Curiously the format of the presentation is in a boxy 4:3 ratio.  I must assume that widescreen would have only enhanced the visuals.  Perhaps this decision was to recall the past and mimic the way Hollywood movies looked before 1953.  Despite the truncated image, it still looks enchanting.  Yet the rapport between these two enigmatic people is not.  Indeed this just might be the bleakest romance ever given a luminous facade by way of gorgeous black and white photography.  This is the profile of a stormy love.  The justification for the desire that keeps them returning to each other is wholly unexplained.  To make matters more bewildering, the motivations for certain behaviors is frustratingly vague.  For example, please witness a dreamy moment where the couple is lying together in a sunny meadow showing sweetness. Now during that very same scene, Zula suddenly admits to an act of betrayal.  Here and elsewhere, I felt nothing but apathy for these two.   Yes, the cinematography is absolutely captivating.  The on-again, off-again love story at the heart of the drama?  Eh not so much.

1-24-19

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11 Responses to “Cold War”

  1. I’ve been tempted to watch this as it has themes and the time period I enjoy. But I dunno. I haven’t bitten as there is too much else to watch. Nice review.

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  2. Full on admit I could only make it through 30 minutes of this.

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  3. Holy smoke, movie fans! being a critic obviously isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Or is it something about the year we’re in now? 2019’s NOT off to a good start.

    Seven movies in a row where only one gets over 3 stars — and THAT happens to be a Spiderman sequel with 3 and a half!

    Take a deep breath, Mark, and remind yourself this can’t go on forever. And better luck on the next one.

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  4. Oh nooooo!!! I was going to go see this this weekend, but your review has me swayed. Damn…I was really looking forward to this one…

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    • Awwww. When I write a review, my intent is never to dissuade someone from seeing a movie. It’s more to give a detailed basis for the way I felt about it so that the reader can make an informed decision.

      If what I’ve written strikes a chord and convinces you that you wouldn’t enjoy it either then that’s fair but if it’s something you deeply wanted to see, take my words with a grain of salt.

      I’d love to hear your thoughts if you do end up seeing the film. 👍🏼

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  5. Just ok. Good cinematography. 2 1/2 stars

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