Film Review – “Cold War”

Starring: Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot
Directed by: Pawel Pawlikowski
Rated: R
Running Time: 1 HR 29 mins
Amazon Studios 

Nominated for three Academy Awards (Best Foreign Language Film, Best Director and Best Cinematography), “Cold War” is an engaging yet tragic period drama that is much deserving of all its accolades.
Shot entirely in black-and-white with English subtitles,
writer/director Pawel Pawlikowski (“Ida”) deftly captures the
brutal essence of communist-controlled Eastern Europe while putting us
on a complicated, 15-year odyssey of obsession.
The story begins in 1949 Poland where the scars of a world war
are still fresh. A soft-spoken music director Wiktor (Tomasz Kot, “Gods”)
is tapped to co-helm a school that’s intended to create a group of
talented young people to stage traditional, Polish folk dances. It is during
auditions at the bullet-ridden school that a crafty blonde singer named
Zula (Joanna Kulig, “Pitbull: Tough Women”) catches his eye.  Despite a warning about her troubled past, Wiktor and Zula develop a
secret, passionate love affair.
Two years later they have an opportunity to escape their communist
oppressors by crossing into West Berlin, but Zula chickens out while
the brooding Wiktor leaves her behind anyway to go carve out a life as
a jazz pianist in Paris. Even though lovers come and go as the years
pass by, Wiktor still regards Zula as the love of his life. His devotion to
her is so strong that he even risks being sent to a Polish prison when he
travels to Yugoslavia to watch Zula perform.
They only reunite when Zula marries an Italian man so she can get out
from behind the Iron Curtain to be with Wiktor. A successful singing
career begins to take shape with Wiktor accompanying her on piano.
However, her jealousy towards other women and her desire to be the
center of attention, especially Wiktor’s, leads Zula to run back to
communist Poland. Wiktor is desperate to follow her but he knows he
will be arrested if he does. It proves to be a fateful test of his devotion to
Pawlikowski’s endeavor has all the feel of a film straight out of 1957 as
he channels the bleak repression the peoples of Eastern Europe faced
under Soviet dominance. There is a paranoid sense that there are eyes
everywhere, and in some instances its true. It’s this omnipresent fear he
generates with his script that gives Zula and Wiktor’s relationship a
palpable edginess. Their romance is so much like a careening roller
coaster that it makes it difficult to accurately predict its outcome.
Kulig is brilliant as she infuses a sense of instability into Zula. In a
way, you want to yell out in vain to Wiktor to stay away from her,
but his devotion runs so deep that he is beyond help. This obsession is
played with expert subtlety by Kot and skillful direction by Pawlikowski
who keeps the pacing brisk with a short running time. Never mind the
critical darling that is “Roma.” Instead, go see “Cold War.” Trust me,
there’s nothing cold about it.

DVD Review “Cold Fish”

Directed by: Sion Sono
Starring: Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Denden, Asuka Kurosawa
Distributed by: Vivendi Entertainment
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running time: 145 minutes

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

This has been one talked about film this year, especially in the horror genere. I am a big fan for an horror/thriller Asian films like “Audition” and “Oldboy”. This film tries to be in the same category but misses it by a little…but not much. “Cold Fish” is a very slow-burning (very slow) delve into madness for our lead, pressuring the point of how much can you take before losing it. The film delivers a fantastic climax in the last 20 minutes but really could have trimmed some of the middle.

This film is about a quiet tropical fish shop owner, Shamoto, whose life is turned upside down when his family meets fellow fish entrepreneur and his wife. The mysterious man turns out to be serial killer and slowly pushes Shamoto over the edge. The film is based on the true exploits of two Tokyo serial killers, who owned a pet shop and murdered at least four people.

I get the point that this is suppose to follow Shamoto to the very limits of how much he can handle before breaking. I just felt that it ran very slow in the middle and the catch could have been sped up a little. If you have a queezy stomach there are a lot of scenes in this film that are not for the faint. It definitely delivers on the gore department. Overall it is totally worth a watch but not sure if I could sit through the whole film again just for the fantastic last 20 minutes.