Having earned its director Pawel Pawlikowski the Best Director at Cannes last May, Cold War breezes into our cinemas now and should stay there for some time. It’s a film we’ll be talking about until the Oscars.
It’s gorgeous, clever, moving, sexy, cool and heart-breaking, an epic love story that spans 20 or so years, starting just after the war in Poland, when a team of musician from Warsaw are scouring the countryside looking for folk singers, gathering field recordings and getting a group together, a sort of early Poland’s Got Talent, designed to restore nationalistic pride to the war-ravaged nation.
Wiktor, the stubbly orchestra leader, spots a blonde singer, Zula, whom he singles out as a potential star, but really he falls in love with her. As the group grows in renown, the Polish government sends them on a tour of Communist countries and Wiktor and Zula plan to defect after a concert in East Berlin and elope to Paris.
What follows is a film about exile, longing, love and music. There’s humour and pain and wonderfully atmospheric photography to conjure up both the romance and the harshness of the fluctuations of their love. Wiktor wanders the clubs and cafes of Paris, works as a film score composer and looks moody; Zula becomes a big star, as should the actress who plays her, Joanna Kulig.
It’s a delicate, exquisitely crafted and beautiful piece, so I wouldn’t want to spoil its tender charms and deep tragedies. I loved it, and it has the grace and style of an instant classic. You might call it ‘Old Wave’, so steeped in film history is its look, but the power of the emotions and searing honesty of the performances bring it painfully into the present.
To get more from this really fine work, read my interview with the two stars here. Or just go and see it.