If you don’t like everything about Cold War, the Best Foreign Film nominee from Poland, you may enjoy the nearly continually wave of music. It starts with a guy playing something that sounds, but doesn’t look, like bagpipes, and another fellow playing a fiddle. They alternately play and sing some folk song.
The viewer sees a couple traveling the countryside of Poland just after World War II, looking for authentic folk singers from the countryside. I imagine it was like how ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax recorded musicians from the southern US and elsewhere.
Then the singers and dancers are culled in some Lawrence Welkian American Idol cattle call, with the best ones trained at a boarding school. They tour and become an unexpected hit.
But an apparatchik wants more songs touting Lenin and Stalin. It is cold war Poland in the early 1950s by then.
All of this is backdrop for an intense, “fatefully mismatched” love story between the singer Zula (Joanna Kulig) and the music director Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) which drives the story. Can one be more free in Communist Poland than in Paris? The movie’s tagline: “Love has no borders.”
The cinematography by Lukasz Zal is often gorgeous. His Oscar nomination is well-deserved. He has already won an award from the American Society of Cinematographers, USA. There is an early scene in the black-and-white film where even a mud path looks like beautiful marble.
Pawel Pawlikowski, who was justifiably been nominated for a best director Oscar, won at the Cannes Film Festival. He also co-wrote the screenplay with Piotr Borkowski.
Cold War is in Polish and French, subtitled. It’s rated R “for some sexual content, nudity and language.” It contains one of my favorite scenes in all of cinema, seriously, done with mirrors.
My wife and I saw it, naturally, at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany. I’ve asked for the soundtrack for my birthday.