Monday, December 31, 2018

Cold War

The reception for Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War has been almost as overblown as that for Romaanother film that’s received a good deal of acclaim. The real Cold War is not between the East and West that the movie, which begins in l949 and deals with a music troop in Poland, sets out to describe. It’s between false art predicated on unearned emotion and the real McCoy. Here the melodrama manifests in the meaningful glances and inexplicable longueur that afflicts its two main characters, a conductor Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) and his inamorata Zula (Joanna Kulig). Even the sex is a tease with the rug pulled out from under the viewer whenever the kettle begins to boil. There’s a worthy musicological subplot having to do with the relationship between indigenous folk music and the demands of the Communist party. The notion of selling out which is occasioned either through co-optation on the ideological front or defection is one of the genuinely insightful elements in an otherwise turgid soap opera. Not since Margarethe von Trotta’s Hannah Arendt biopic has a lead character smoked as much as Pawlikowski’s male lead. The haunted unshaven look goes along with the butts. What happens to Wiktor in the West is the only argument for the Berlin Wall that has yet to be made in modern film. At the end of Cold War, reunited with her great love in a Tristan and Isolde death-in-life, at an Oedipus-like crossroads Zula says “Let’s go to the other side. The view will be better.” Is a spoiler alert even necessary? Not Brief Encounter might be a better title for this love story.

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