Seriously moved, enthralled or charmed as I am by Green Book, Roma, Vice, First Reformed, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Happy as Lazzaro, Capernaum, The Mule, Black Panther, First Man, portions of Bohemian Rhapsody and the first half of A Star Is Born, Pawel Pawlikowski‘s Cold War sits at the top of the heap. Yes, even at a higher aesthetic station than Alfonso Cuaron‘s black-and-white masterwork. I’m sorry but I love Cold War a bit more.
If you ask me Cold War is the cleanest, sharpest and most tightly composed film of the year…a period haunter…a kind of half-Polish Communist, half-Montmarte jazz cavern love story that will knock your eyeballs out if you’re any kind of black-and-white connoisseur or a boxy-is-beautiful fanatic like myself.
No other 2018 film rang my bell quite the same. I don’t care what category it’s in — no other film is as concise and self-aware, as visually glistening and fatalistic and bang on the money as Cold War. It’s pure silvery pleasure, perfectly distilled, the highest manifestation of luscious arthouse porn I’ve run into all year. And it offers the greatest female performance of the year — Joanna Kulig as the sly, at times insolent, sometimes half-crazy Zula.
I recently insisted that Kulig deserves a Best Actress nomination. Her performance reignites the spirit of Jeanne Moreau in Jules and Jim (and if that doesn’t excite your spirit then I don’t know what) along with a spritz of early ’50s Gloria Grahame. A femme fatale songbird, an emotional force of nature, trouble from the word go.
You can’t watch Cold War and not fall in love with how it looks and feels. Those gleaming, whistle-clean silvery tones, Łukasz Żal‘s somewhat unusual bottom heavy framings, that feeling of being in a repressive but exotic realm, and yet one that becomes more and more of a “home” in a sense, and more familiar by the minute.
It also delivers something relatively rare in our 21st Century realm, which is a feeling that the viewer hasn’t been shown enough — that he/she hasn’t had enough time to really savor the flavor and atmosphere and characters.