Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Film Review: "Cold War" ("Zimna wojna") (2018).

"Love has no borders" in Cold War (Zimna wojna). This Polish historical period drama film directed by Paweł Pawlikowski, and co-written by Pawlikowski, Janusz Głowacki and Piotr Borkowski. Set against the backdrop of the 1950s Cold War in Poland, two people of differing backgrounds and temperaments begin an almost impossible romance.

The main characters were loosely based on the real-life creators of the world-renowned Polish folk dance group, Zespól Piesni i Tanca Mazowsze (Mazowsze), which consisted of Tadeusz Sygietynski and Mira Ziminska. The troupe was founded after the war and still active. Sygietynski and Ziminska were married and after the war toured the countryside in search of talented young folk singers and dancers. They also composed the song "Dwa serduszka, cztery oczy", which is the leitmotiv of the movie. Once he had his characters in mind, Pawlikowski looked for a way to bring them together and the music became essential to the film. The turbulent relationship between the main characters was inspired by Pawlikowski's real-life parents, whose names the protagonists share. They did break up and get together a couple of times as well as moved from one country to another. The film is dedicated to Pawlikowski's parents. Legendary actress Lauren Bacall was in mind when Pawlikowski and actress Joanna Kulig were developing the character of Zula, especially for the screen legend's sarcastic delivery of dialogue.

The film stars Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot, Borys Szyc, Agata Kulesza, Jeanne Balibar, and Cédric Kahn. The performances, given by the cast, were splendidly acted. The characters of Wiktor and Zula, as played, stupendously, by Kot and Kulig, are a vortex, as fascinating to spend time with as they are bottomlessly tender. Tremendously bittersweet as the couple in post-war Poland; they have the inscrutability of oppression and lack of freedom.

Empathetically written, splendidly acted, and beautifully photographed, Cold War finds director Pawel Pawlikowski revisiting his roots to powerful effect. With breathtaking concision and clarity—85 minutes of austere, carefully framed black and white—Mr. Pawlikowski penetrates the darkest, thorniest thickets of Polish history, reckoning with the aftermath of World War II. From 1940s until the 1960s, Poland lost a fifth of its population. In the two years after the war, Communists took over the government under the eyes of the Red Army and the Soviet secret police, the N.K.V.D.. Many Poles, who were oppressed by the Soviet Union, were searching and yearning for freedom of the West; the prominent citizens were forced to play into the communist propaganda machine. In the film, all of this is not only stated, but it is all built, so to speak, into the atmosphere. Bittersweet in tone, but not without its moments of pure joy, the haunting black-and-white art-house film is brilliantly crafted. It's done in hard-focus black-and-white, with no tricky camera moves, no special effects; sort of "minimalist realism." Mr. Pawlikowski has made one of the finest European films (and one of the most insightful films about Europe, past and present) in recent memory.

Simon says Cold War (Zimna wojna) receives:

Also, see my review for Ida.

Sunday, 27 January 2019

'Once Upon a Time in Canada' Chapter 67.

The time for a protest was inevitable. It’s not exactly a pleasant photo subject. It’s made for more photo-journalistic efforts. But I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. I wanted to use this to increase my chances of getting my foot in the journalism door. I don’t think that’s too unreasonable.

On the news, it comes as no surprise that the Ontario government, under Doug Ford, new OSAP plan includes eliminating the six-month grace period on loans, eliminating free tuition for low-income families, shifting from mostly grant-based to mostly loans-based funding, as well as forcing colleges and universities to absorb the loss of revenue from the ten percent tuition cut, inevitably making students pay the brunt of the cost. That’s a load of bullshit, if you ask me. I got wind of this when I was on Facebook minding my own business on the home page, and there I saw it and it got my attention.

But’s that obvious. It started at Yonge-Dundas Square, and I made it there an hour early. Most of the waiting time was spent at the SLC building at Ryerson University. Anyway, my presence was finally needed when the clock reached two o’clock. Fortunately, I noticed as soon as I reached the square that people with protest signs started to show up. The only problem that lay ahead was to take as many photos as possible without getting lost or trampled by the crowd, as well as not slipping on the snowy, icy ground. I just had to be very careful.

I took a lot of great shots. Then I spent a couple of minutes reviewing the images and deleting any less worthy ones. We made our way from Dundas Square, all the way through Dundas Street West and up University Avenue, to Queen’s Park, where the Ontario Legislative Building was located. There the protestors made sure their voices would be heard, by the Ontario government and Ford himself.

That was all I did for the day, other than getting tickets for Anime North immediately afterward, and attending a York University play in the evening. Might not seem like much, but it was a lot of stuff and work to do in one day, as least for me. Now it’s time to rest.

Also, see Chapters 66 and 68.