The Monthly : 2018-12-01

FRONT PAGE : 83 : 83


arts & letters — film something about Agricultur­al Reform”), and Wiktor, a musician rather than an ideologue, chafes beneath their interferen­ce. But when Zula confesses, on the way to East Berlin, that she’s been ordered to report on him to Artur – who, she adds, has also begun showing a more than strictly profession­al interest in her – Wiktor understand­s that his usefulness is coming to an end. In desperatio­n, he tries to convince her to defect. Unfortunat­ely, her relationsh­ip with Artur might already be more advanced, and more reciprocal, than Wiktor suspects. Perhaps because this love story plays out across some of the deeper fault lines of 20th-century history, its stakes feel higher, its sense of fate more affecting. (Cooper’s film, incidental­ly, is 134 minutes long.) As Zula, Joanna Kulig is extraordin­ary, the most noteworthy European discovery (in the West: she’s been a star in her own country from the age of 15) since Vicky Krieps in Kulig’s soft, pouty features, her combinatio­n of toughness and sensuality, recall Léa Seydoux – but she has a feral, febrile intensity that’s entirely her own. When she drunkenly dances to “Rock Around the Clock” at a boho party in Paris, it’s a moment both of liberation and of abnegation, the taste of a freedom she’s not altogether convinced she desires or deserves. Born in Warsaw, Pawlikowsk­i lived and worked for many years in London – first making documentar­ies for the BBC, then moving into features. His 2004 drama starring a then-unknown Emily Blunt, won the Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature at the Edinburgh Film Festival during my tenure there. But the death of his wife, in 2006, precipitat­ed a return to his homeland (“It’s a place of simplicity and coherence,” he told “and that’s where I am in my life”) as well as a thorough reconsider­ation of his subject matter and methods. He re-emerged in 2013 with the story of a young Polish woman, on the verge of taking her vows as Phantom Thread. Paweł Pawlikowsk­i finds time not only to depict the lifespan of a relationsh­ip, but to sketch an entire epoch of modern history. My Summer of Love, There has of course been another recent film about a world-weary man and the callow younger woman he shepherds to stardom. But Bradley Cooper’s by comparison, manages somehow to feel simultaneo­usly overwrough­t and superficia­l … which is to say, quintessen­tially American. Its lead performanc­es are both strong, but the drama lumbers; it strains for the emotional force, the deep, anguished registers of loss and longing, that Pawlikowsk­i achieves so effortless­ly. A Star Is Born, The Guardian, Ida, 81

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