Covering around a dozen years before his lushly reined in Ida, Poland’s Pawel Pawlikowski is back with an introspective, understanding ill-fated romance starring Tomasz Kot and Joanna Kulig (Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters).
Cold War (fully subtitled) burrows metaphorically into the Stalin, then Malenkov/Khrushchev eras as it moves from Poland to Berlin, as well as Yugoslavia and Paris. Composer and pianist Wiktor (an expressive Kot) will be bowled over by singer-dancer Zula, an angelic, captivating ‘it girl’ in Kulig (also of Ida) who isn’t really ideal for an established group of folk-based musicians to tour the Eastern Bloc. The audition of urban woman includes a number from a Russian movie, and her personal history is marred after knifing her father, confusing him with her mother.
Without a ‘pure’ voice, Wiktor believes she has ‘something else’ and as she’ll headline the ensemble with conventional folk tunes and acknowledgements of the General Secretary/Premier. At East Berlin there is an opportunity to cross the Iron Curtain, yet both don’t share the same sentiments. So, there will be separations and return meetings over a decade in the midst of crossing borders as films like The Unbearable Lightness of Being with Daniel Day-Lewis, Juliette Binoche, and Lena Olin come to mind in the pair’s evolution that is equally impassioned and aggravating.
The director, again in a short time, knows how to manage a project with luminescence and Academy-ratio lensing to give it a stellar symbiosis with his previously mentioned Best Foreign-Language Feature Oscar winner. The ethnomusicology is key, too, in the styling of how lovers are enmeshed in politics in perhaps mitigating what could be less receptive to audiences this side of the Atlantic, even with the sound of Bill Haley and the Comets.
Cold War might not have that swooning quality knowing how its moniker has an intrinsic anguish about it with adequate support from the likes of Agata Kulesza and Borys Szyc, as a partner and an unyielding government representative, respectively. The contrast of two people whose emotions are compromised by their hauteur is an interesting star-crossed example that Pawlikowski forwards with accomplished tactility made absorbing by Kot and Kulig in an impassioned connection that doesn’t fill in all the blanks.