Cold War


Cold War ★★★★

Spanning the period between 1949 and 1964, Polish writer/director Pawel Pawlikowski’s heartbreaking love story doesn’t make the mistake of romanticizing the past. Rather, it finds romance within it. Lensed and presented in the same boxy, nearly square Academy ratio and deep contrast black-and-white as 2014’s Ida (Pawlikowski’s Oscar-winning Foreign Language Film, and his earlier collaboration with cinematographer Lukasz Zal), Cold War belies its title, scorching the screen with the desire of its two star-crossed lovers, Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) and Zula (Joanna Kulig). Named after Pawlikowski’s parents, to whom the film is dedicated, the fictional musicians meet in a Poland still struggling to rebuild after the devastation of World War II. The story opens with static close-ups of gypsies performing directly toward the camera; the folk songs they sing serve as a key to the rest of the film, expressing what Wiktor and Zula are unable to communicate to each other directly. A gifted pianist raised in a much more refined and educated world, Wiktor finds himself drawn toward Zula—a secretive singer pretending to be a simple mountain girl—as he assembles a touring folk ensemble. Mismatched from the beginning, they’re also condemned to be together, a fact that’s detailed through the episodic breakups and inevitable reunions taking place on both sides of the Iron Curtain, during the height of the political standoff that gives the film its ironic title. Filled with unforgettable images, Cold War presents a strikingly personal view of mutually assured self-destruction. Watch it at Coolidge Corner and Kendall Square.

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