FILM REVIEW: Cold War is a Full-bodied and Complex Journey
The following review is written in the style of wine descriptions and is best enjoyed at dusk, accompanied by Duke Ellington and the aroma of freshly ground coffee.
Late-evening chatter wafted through the pine-trees and bounced along the grass of the Somerville Auditorium. The sun withered to a subtle red dashed across the palatable skyline. This masterpiece of the sky gradually turned to darkness which was, in turn, splintered by a singular trail of light dragging the dew and resting upon the projector screen. The light exposed a two dimensional, black and white love letter in a foreign language. But, somehow, I understood.
Cold War is a highly polished Melodrama/Romance (with a hint of musical) from critically acclaimed Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski. It follows the complex and astringent love affair of Zula (Joanna Kulig) and Wiktor (Tomasz Kot), two forsaken lovers at opposite ends of the post-war music scene.
Ahead of Oscar season, Cold War has earnt three nominations for Best Director, Cinematography and Foreign Film. This marks the director and cinematographer team’s second visit to Oscar country: in 2015, their film Ida won Best Foreign Film and was nominated for Best Achievement in Cinematography.
With a rich, 4:3 boxed aspect ratio, the film is presented in charcoaled black and white, underlaid with an almost imperceptible aroma of ground coffee, tobacco and clove. Pawlikowski’s regular cinematographer, the Oscar nominated Lukasz Zal, captures the supple, velvet beauty of Polish and French landscapes with a fine graphite edge. The soundtrack is distinguished by notes of elegancy and maturity, juxtaposing leathery jazz with musky folk songs which elevate the film to a vibrant, generous and alluring sensory experience.
Cold War is full-bodied and complex with notes of black cherries and coffee beans. Delicately structured and cautiously paced (recommended consumption time is eighty minutes after opening), it tells a story through the romantic ventures and failures of Zula and Wiktor. Please note that the crisp, clean pacing does leave little space for a grand finale and thus viewers may find this final portion leaves a peculiar aftertaste.
The tragic romance of Cold War is subtle and flavourful. This is not tragedy on the grand scale of Romeo and Juliet, more an unfortunate fall from grace for two cliff-edged lovers who catapult each other into misery. The film thus leaves behind a varnished and perfumed sense of melancholy which lingers within the audience long after its closing.
While there are a few sour notes, Cold War is a delicate and sumptuous journey; a rich and concentrated romance which delighted this author’s palate with its dense textures, complex aromas and full-bodied craftsmanship. The experience is rounded out by the elegant performances of the leads, whose nuanced love story can be enjoyed now or, with careful cellaring, over the next eight to ten years.
3.5 Stars out of 5