Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. Poland/United Kingdom/France, 2018. Opus Film, Apocalypso Pictures, MK2 Productions, Arte France, BFI Film Fund, Canal+ Polska, Cinestaan Film Company, City of Lodz, City of Warsaw, EC1 Lódz – Miasto Kultury, Eurimages, Film4, Kino Swiat, MEDIA Programme of the European Union, MK2 Films, Maziowiecki Fundusz Filmowy, Mazovia Region, Mazovia Warsaw Film Fund, Podkarpacki Fundusz Filmowy, Polski Instytut Sztuki Filmowej, Protagonist Pictures, Silesia Film, Slaski Fundusz Filmowy. Story by Pawel Pawlikowski, Screenplay by Pawel Pawlikowski, Janusz Glowacki, with the collaboration of Piotr Borkowski. Cinematography by Lukasz Zal. Produced by Ewa Puszczynska, Tanya Seghatchian. Music by Marcin Masecki. Production Design by Benoit Barouh, Marcel Slawinski, Katarzyna Sobanska-Strzalkowska. Costume Design by Ola Staszko. Film Editing by Jaroslaw Kaminski. Academy Awards 2018. Cannes Film Festival 2018. New York Film Critics 2018. Toronto International Film Festival 2018. Washington Film Critics Awards 2018.
Pawel Pawlikowski reportedly based the characters in this sexy, turbulent romance on his own parents, musicians who met, fell in love and experienced a very rocky road before finding peace. Tomasz Kot is handsome and brooding as a musician directing a concert of traditional music meant to help Polish audiences get comfortable in their new situation behind the Iron Curtain. Among the prospective singers who audition for him is the gorgeous Joanna Kulig, lush and blonde and in possession of a rich musical voice, with whom he initiates a sexually charged affair that is then interrupted by his escaping to Paris. She finds him in the City of Lights and they reconnect, but emotional turbulence breaks them up again and their fate sends them hurtling back towards their homeland. These two people try to enjoy their very sexy chemistry while the world around them falls apart; what makes the film so satisfying is that Pawlikowski shows the post-war fracturing of Europe affecting both their passionate lovemaking as well as their harshest fights in a subtle and intelligent manner that never upsets the brittle balance between the personal and the political. What makes the film so pleasurable is how it all plays out across a stunning visual palette, returning to the crisp, stark monochrome photography that made Ida so compelling, startling the viewer with vivid images set in a multitude of locations including jazz cafes, concert stages, sun-drenched meadows and labour camps. The grappling for power happening in the background puts the human element in greater relief, and in sharing so much emotional anguish with us the film gets at the true nature of art as a conduit for expression.