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NYFF: Pawel Pawlikowski's Cold War

Jason Adams reporting from the New York Film Festival

Like Phantom Thread last year Pawel Pawlikowski's magnificently romantic and visually bewitching new film Cold War deals in the secret languages and strange understandings between true lovers - that no matter how hard it is on your soul and constitution that person sitting across the table is the one made for you and vice versa, and you might be the end of each other but you'll be each other's beginnings too...

Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) meets Zula (Joanna Kulig, total supernova) thanks to lies - she's pretended to be something she's not (a small-town gal who, uh, didn't murder her father) in order to get something she wants (a singing and dancing gig in his show about Polish folk music). She says she can probably figure out how to dance and then for her Polish folk-art audition sings a song from a Russian movie - it's plenty; Wiktor's smitten from second one. And she knows it. And he knows she's lying and doesn't care. Man, she's got charm for miles. Eventually her lies become part of his mythos for her, well past her appreciating it - she'll be the maintainer of her own mythos, thank you very much, even if it's made of pieces that will never fit.

It's that constant battle of the wills with these two, stretched across a dozen years and half as many countries - back and forth across the mainland, sneaking from Parisian Jazz Clubs to Prison Sentence, each daring the other to admit defeat first and be a steadfast man, a known quantity of woman. Alas, it's always something. As it is, and as it goes - Movie Love rings truest the more impossible the odds, and these two make some impossibly fine music together. This is the musical romance of the season.

Cold War has finished screening for the NYFF but opens in theaters on December 21st.

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Reader Comments (9)

I'm so eager to see this again. I was a little cold on it (no pun intended) despite its ravishing beauty and a few absolutely stellar scenes but It pops into my mind all the time so i need a second go.

October 10, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

This was my absolute favorite at TIFF. I walked in so tired, expecting to fall asleep at any minute, and then was just entranced by gutteral Eastern European music, forlorn nightclub lights, and some of the most gorgeous shots since... Ida?

I hope this one crosses over as much as Ida did, but I worry about it’s chances in a very stacked Foreign Language category, and have basically written off its chances in more mainstream categories.

October 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

I was cold on this movie as well. My big question is why is Zula so tempestuous? The film never tells us. We never get to understand her as the film follows the guy. Even if she is supposed to be a metaphor for something deeper, the character doesn't work except as pure male fantasy. Felt nothing for the love story. Beautifully made though.

October 10, 2018 | Registered CommenterMurtada Elfadl

I was with it until that ending.

That being said, I expected more from it - it left me thoroughly unruffled and I couldn’t help thinking it should have been more.

October 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMorgan

The cinematography is STUNNING. It needs to be nominated.

October 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph

I was so disappointed in it. I thought the first half was breathtaking and then it faded ...

October 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRod

This was my favorite of the films I saw at TIFF. It's also my choice for best Foreign Film submission of the 13 I've seen so far.

October 11, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

Murtada - I read Zula's feistiness as a consequence of her childhood, particularly her relationship with her father.

October 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Not everything needs to be exactly explained... why this, why that... This movie has charmed me, acted on all my senses and left speechless at the end. For me - a total cinematographic masterpiece.

October 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDaria

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