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COLD WAR: 4 STARS. “a deeply romantic story of love in a dangerous time.”  

“Cold War,” the Polish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Academy Awards, is loosely based on the relationship of the director Pawel Pawlikowski’s parents. Shot in crisp, beautiful black and white, it feels like watching old family snapshots come to vivid life.

Set in 1950’s Poland, we first meet Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) as he toils to document traditional songs and dances. At an audition he meets Zula (Joanna Kulig), a charismatic singer with a dark past. She murdered her father after he sexually assaulted her and is on parole. “He mistook me for my mother, “ she says, “so I showed him the difference with a knife.” The two are irresistibly attracted to one another and become involved on and off stage.

When Wiktor makes a run to Paris to make it as a jazz musician and escape the Soviet government he begs her to accompany him. She stays behind, singing with her old troupe despite their new, ideological Stalinist slant.

The star-crossed lovers aren’t separated forever, however. Over the next fifteen years they meet sporadically in various locations in Europe, discovering that while they can’t be together they also can’t stay apart.

At a quick 88 minutes “Cold War” is a treat for the eyes and the ears. Łukasz Żal’s photography, presented in boxy 4:3 aspect ratio, focuses the eye, revelling in the emotional performances of Kot and Kulig. Stark, yet sizzling, these two embody a love that was meant to be but perhaps can never be. Add to that a carefully chosen soundtrack of jazz and folk songs and you get a movie that hits all available senses.

Fragmented though the story may be it is also a deeply romantic story of love in a dangerous time.

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