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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