Four years after his film “Ida” won the foreign-language Oscar, Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski has returned to the look of that film and to the unsettled arena of Europe in the decades after World War II. “Cold War,” which had its world premiere on Thursday night at the Cannes Film Festival’s Grand Theatre Lumiere, shares some strengths with its predecessor, but this is a movie of the flesh, not the spirit.
In the director’s last film, a young woman on the verge of becoming a nun travels through a sparse countryside still haunted by the ghosts of World War II. “Ida” is an austere film, but one that plumbed the depths of postwar guilt and tragedy and made its characters fight for their faith.
This time around, his characters move in a landscape that was formed by the war: a divided Europe, with Poland under the sway of Stalin’s Soviet Union and suspicious of Western influences. And this time, his lead characters, Zula and Wiktor, are fighting for love, meeting in different cities at different times to reclaim a bond that began when Zula was a young music student and Wiktor was her instructor.
Europe in the 1940s and ’50s has been a fertile setting for doomed love since “Casablanca,” and “Cold War” gives us another of those. But Pawlikowski is a lyrical, mysterious filmmaker with a ravishing visual sense; if we’ve seen lovers pulled together and torn apart in Paris and Berlin before, we haven’t seen them look and feel like this.
In “Ida,” Pawlikowski shot in lustrous black and white and used an almost square 4:3 aspect ratio, which almost feels square to the viewer; it disconcerted his original cinematographer, and often made his characters feel isolated with a large amount of space above their heads.
He does the same thing on “Cold War,” often to similar effect, but he also finds other astonishing shots: a gorgeous sequence where Zula floats down a river on her back with all but her face and hands submerged, and a final scene where the couple stages their own ceremony in a derelict, haunted church.
But then, all of “Cold War” is haunted – partly by the conflict that tore a continent apart and put it back together with a fault line down the middle, and partly by matters of the heart. But its characters only glancingly face their ghosts; most of the time, they sing and play their songs (Polish folk tunes, then anthems to Stalin, then ’50s jazz and pop), fall in and out of other relationships and try to pretend that they can each live without their soulmate.
They can’t, of course, but they can’t really live with their soulmates, either. Joanna Kulig makes Zula impetuous and daring, Tomasz Kot gives Wiktor deep reserves of longing and sorrow, and together they make their way through a landscape that would be inhospitable even to less tortured and less complicated lovers.
If it doesn’t feel as fresh and bracing as “Ida” did, that film may have been the perfect combination of form and content. “Cold War,” which is Pawlikowski’s first entry in Cannes main competition, is in some ways more familiar, but the spin he puts on it is distinctly and beautifully his own creation.
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Israeli singer Netta Barzilai gives a cluck about empowering women.
Barzilai is favored to win the Eurovision Song Contest, a massive phenomenon overseas, with a #MeToo anthem of sorts that incorporates chicken sounds.
“People are really connecting with the clucking,” Barzilai told TheWrap. “It’s uplifting.”
Hundreds of millions of viewers around the world follow the Eurovision contest. Barzilai qualified for it by winning “HaKokhav HaBa L’Eurovision” (The Next Star for Eurovision), an Israeli reality singing competition. When it came time to record her entry, “Toy,” Barzilai decided to wing it (sorry) with the chicken sounds.
The song includes lyrics like: “I’m not your toy, you stupid boy,” and “Barbie got something to say.”
“We knew we were creating something special,” Barzilai said. “But we never thought it would be this crazy.”
“We’ve been getting fan mail from the U.S. and even Arab countries, places that have nothing to do with Europe,” the song’s co-writer, Doron Medalie, told TheWrap. “The Eurovision usually has the same cliche-ridden themes about peace and love. There aren’t a lot of songs using toys as metaphors for men.”
The winner of the Eurovision contest will be named May 12.
Betting sites have Barzilai as the odds-on favorite to win, with “Toy” taking up the No. 1 spot with bookmakers according to ESC Daily, a site dedicated to covering the Eurovision contest “as the Olympic Games of music.”
“She’s light years ahead of of anyone else,” said Gal Uchovsky, who served as a judge on the show “Kokhav Nolad” (A Star Is Born) for five seasons. “It’s a great song and it’s very current.”
According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, it came in 17th on the list of the most listened-to songs on iTunes in Spain, 36th place in Poland, and 46th in the Netherlands.
Started in 1956, the Eurovision Song Contest is the longest-running international singing competition, with more than 200 million viewers, according to organizers. It’s largely considered the precursor for singing contests like “American Idol” and “The Voice.”
The event, held in Lisbon, Portugal, also airs in the U.S. For the third consecutive year, the show will be broadcast on Logo. The Viacom network will carry the live finale on May 12.
The internet has made Eurovision popular well outside Europe. Last month, a Ugandan dance group, Spoon Youth, choreographed dance to “Toy.” It has more than a quarter of a million views.
It also got a super-Jewish Yiddish spoof by a singer calling herself “The Kosher Diva.”
The winning Eurovision country also gets to host the following year’s competition. The honor doesn’t come cheap — Ukraine forked over about $24 million for last year’s event, according to the Kyiv Post.
But hosting the live event can boost a county’s image and tourism. Stockholm, which hosted the Eurovision in 2016, saw a boom in international visitors and generated about $30.5 million in revenue, according to the city, which it said was the equivalent to 175 full-time jobs.
Israel has won three times — in 1978, 1979 and 1998. But there are no guarantees the 2019 Eurovision contest will be held in Jerusalem. Last year, the Italian song was favored to win, but ended up sixth after the final tally came in.
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www.thewrap.com | 5/5/18
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