Paweł Pawlikowski is a man whose name critics love to invoke, even if they have to cut and paste it in to make sure it spelled correctly. He seems to have given up wrestling with the text of his on-going adaptation of Vernon God Little, but that’s no great loss; the Polish director has a style of his own that doesn’t need to be piggy-backed on another property.
The standard-issue information on this film, that Cold War is shot in black and white, and got an 11 minute ovation at Cannes, would make any prospective viewer’s heart sink; it sounds like the kind of three hour ‘Latvian people arguing at a kitchen table’ snorefest that provides good reason to hate art cinema. But of course, it’s anything but; Cold War tells, in simple, stunningly composed images, the story of a love story between a musician and the singer who auditions for him. They meet and separate in various countries, across borders, through concerts and dances, until fate finds a way to bring them together ‘until the end of the world’.
This is cinematic poetry of the highest order, plain yet lush, riddled with subtle yet jaw-dropping compositions. The black and white photography, so often the banal choice of an art director on a perfume commercial, is truly lustrous, and the leads are luminous; the director discovered Emily Blunt amongst others, and one would hope that Joanna Kulig and Thomasz Kot should return to our screens before long.
The late John McCain’s line about not ‘hiding behind walls’ is relevant here; it’s a timely story about how borders, and politics, can bend and shape our most vital relationships. Given that the same director’s previous film, Oscar-winner Ida, felt more worthy than entertaining, Cold War marks a huge personal statement by the director, with photography that makes it a scintillating film to watch in HD.