Thursday, February 7, 2019

Cold War

Cold War
seen @ Kew Gardens Cinemas, Kew Gardens, Queens, NY

Now that I've seen Cold War, after the Oscar nominees have been announced, I can't help but wonder how close it came to a Best Picture nod. A spot in the Best Foreign Language Film category seemed a given, but Cinematography and shockingly, Director too, makes me think there was a lot of love for it — which is good, because it's an excellent film.

Did it finish in the Top 10 in the Best Picture voting? Did it steal some number-one votes from Roma, another black and white period piece? We'll never know, because the Academy doesn't release the tally for Best Picture or any other category, and that's unfortunate. Still, it's worth the speculation.

I saw the trailer for it when I saw Stan and Ollie, and just like with director Pawel Pawlikowski's previous film, Ida, I went into it blind, willing to take a chance, knowing nothing else about it, and once again, I was rewarded.

Starting in Pawlikowski's native Poland after World War 2 and moving across Europe through the 40s and 50s, it's about the star-crossed romance between the conductor of a traveling troupe of Polish performers, singing and dancing to the folk songs of their native land, and his star attraction, a young girl from the wrong side of the tracks, set against the background of the rise of Communism in Poland.

Just like Ida, Pawlikowski shoots in the squarish, television-like format, and composed the shots in such a way that the action takes up the lower half of the screen. His Oscar-nominated DP, Lucasz Zal, also worked the camera for Ida. Once again, they get some beautiful images.

The leads, Joanna Kulig (who reminded me of Jenny Lawrence) and Tomasz Kot, are terrific. He's an excellent piano player, and she's a dynamite singer.

There are elements of La La Land, The Artist and even Once to be found here, but the movie I was reminded of most is A Star is Born. Ironic, since last year saw yet another remake of that old chestnut. Cold War, needless to say, is much less glitzy than any of these films, yet it has its share of glamor in spots.

Is it fair to compare this to Roma? I think so. Cold War, too, is inspired by real life — in this case, the model is the story of Pawlikowski's parents, though the film is not meant to be biographical. Both films have beautiful and distinctive cinematography. Both films reflect the political atmosphere of the times and places in which they're set. Both films are character driven.

But Roma had the backing of Netflix and was able to reach a wider audience as a result. Would Cold War have had comparable success if it had Netflix to support it? Possibly. But it did pretty damn well on its own.

Another irony: the Kew Gardens screened this film, with its small size, in Theater 3, its biggest auditorium. Cold War took up half the size of the screen!


  1. Apparently, this played at TIFF last fall and is in a number of theatres around town.

    Currently, bad weather and dialysis is keeping me from doing a lot I would like to do. Life is like that sometimes.

  2. I'll bet this was real popular at TIFF.

    I've caught a cold after trying hard to avoid it. Not the same, but I sympathize. Things will pick up again.


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