November 18, 2019  (Web Review)

Cold War

Criterion, 88 min., in Polish, Croatian, Russian, German, Italian & French w/English subtitles, R, DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95, Nov. 19

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

An Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, Oscar-nominated director Pawel Pawlikowski’s episodic love story begins in 1949 in newly Communist Poland, and revolves around Wiktor (Tomasz Kot), an ethnomusicologist, who falls in love with Zula (Joanna Kulig), a charismatic singer/dancer. The pair meet when he’s the creative director of Mazowsze—a real-life folk-and-dance group, founded by the Polish People’s Republic in the ‘40s—and she auditions. Their tumultuous relationship continues amidst political upheaval on-and-off for decades, as they travel within and beyond the Iron Curtain, spending volatile interludes in Warsaw, Prague, and Paris. They marry, divorce, and betray each other multiple times up until 1989, just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Lukasz Zal’s Oscar-nominated monochromatic cinematography evokes nostalgia for a time when most films were shot in black-and-white, and the background music is a big plus, ranging from folklore songs and Soviet-era hymns to George Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess and Bill Haley & His Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock.” Although Pawlikowski’s multiple-award-winning 2013 film Ida—about a Polish nun who discovers that she’s Jewish—is far more accessible, this critically acclaimed film singled out for Academy Award attention is recommended. [Note: DVD/Blu-ray extras include a new conversation between director Paweł Pawlikowski and filmmaker Alejandro G. Iñárritu (29 min.), a 2018 Cannes Film Festival press conference (29 min.), a behind-the-scenes featurette (16 min.), a “making-of” featurette (14 min.), and an essay by film critic Stephanie Zacharek. Bottom line: a fine extras package for this Oscar-nominated foreign drama.] (S. Granger)