Review: COLD WAR

By Liz Lopez

Rating A  

Pawel Pawlikowski (the Polish auteur of the 2015 Oscar-winning “Ida”) returns with the black-and-white film, “Cold War” (original title: “Zimna wojna”), that was competing in the Cannes Film Festival last May. Director Pawlikowski co-wrote the screenplay with Janusz Glowacki and the collaboration of Piotr Borkowski. Pawlikowski’s jazz-infused romantic drama received three Academy Award nominations Tuesday. The title does not necessarily refer to the time period, as much as the temperature in the hearts of the troubled lovers Zula (Joanna Kulig), a blonde vocalist and Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) a pianist who is passionate about jazz. Their fifteen year love story swings across European borders. Life for them is not always pleasant, nor are they always on board with each other’s decisions about how to proceed in life, but their love endures. The film starts with a scene that may make the viewer think they are in the wrong theater at first, but it does not take long before Wiktor sees Zula walk in and we know he is in deep. As the film proceeds with the ups and downs of their long term love affair, there is so much beautiful music that livens what we are viewing. This is a film deserving of the three nominations for directing, cinematography and Best Foreign Film.

The film opens in 1949, as musical directors Wiktor (Kot) and Irena (Agata Kulesza, are talent-scouting for a theatrical folk ensemble. They are auditioning a village band that sings a traditional song from their region. When a charismatic blonde vocalist, Zula (Kulig), enters the audition room, Wiktor’s eyes light up as he knows he has found the talent he is looking for. She indeed joins the ensemble that goes on to tour across Europe where they perform to sold out houses. Zula and Wiktor’s affair rages. It is after the troupe’s manager, Kaczmarek (Borys Szyc), shifts the show to become propaganda for Stalin that things begin to cool down. The couple has a difference about this change and while Wiktor leaves the show, Zula continues her career. This is not the first, nor the last time the couple separate and reunite over the following decade. It is easy to see an artist couple anywhere across the globe that is both lost with and without each other.

Both actors, Kot and Kulig, make this film shine with their performances, especially Kulig as she swings in mood and attitude toward her lover. She is excellent as Zula and is hard to turn away from the screen when she is performing. She is on fire as she h to Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock.” The varied music on the soundtrack is quite an addition to the film’s story and one to add to a collector’s stash.

The film is loosely inspired by the director’s late parent’s marriage and to whom the film is dedicated.  

The film has Polish and French dialogue with a running time of 88 minutes. The film opens January 25th in several Austin theaters.

Source: Amazon Studios (in U.S.)

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