Daily Projections, 2-12-2019: Cold War (2018)

Title: Cold War
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Country of Origin: Poland
Year: 2018
Screening format: DCP
Setting: Belcourt Theatre
First viewing? Yes

Notes: I’ve barely made a sound since this one finished. No one in the theater did, either. Everyone left the room in silence. It seems wrong to behave any other way. Going in, I had my doubts that Cold War could ever live up to the impossible standard set by Pawlikowski’s last film, Ida. They are, certainly, distinct from each other, but are propelled by the same icy poetry that buoyed Bergman’s best films of the ’50s and ’60s (the same era in which Cold War—and Ida—take place). Cold War is the story of a single romance told through vignettes against the backdrop of the Cold War. Each character lives a separate life that happens entirely offscreen. It could easily seem that Pawlikowski is taking the easy way out, ditching exposition altogether in favor fleeting vignettes. But that is the point. At one point, Wiktor refers to Zula as “the woman of my life”. Those moments are everything. They are the only thing. In some sense, I suppose Cold War is a road movie about two people traveling in separate vehicles whose journeys sync up only when fate (and traffic) allow. The music (brilliantly chosen throughout) makes for a wonderfully evocative third character. It’s also pleasant to note that Lukasz Zal’s perfect cinematography in Ida was no fluke.

Daily Projections, 12-18-2018: My Dear Enemy (2008)

Title: My Dear Enemy
Director: LEE Yoon-ki
Country of Origin: South Korea
Year: 2008
Screening Format: Blu-ray
Setting: Home
First viewing? Yes

IMDB classifies My Dear Enemy as a “road movie”, and it is. Sort of. My Dear Enemy is to road movies as a day spent running errands is to road trips. You spend a lot of time in the car without ever really going anywhere. The journey here is an emotional one. Hee-su (played by Korea’s Queen of Cannes JEON Do-yeon) tracks down her ex Byung-woon to collect on a debt he can’t pay. They spend the remainder of the day together, gathering a little money here and there to pay his debt. Byung-woon believes the best about people, while Hee-su has built a wall of cynicism around herself. This is masterfully translated into the look of the film. In social situations, Byung-woon gets stuck right in while Hee-su stands apart, rarely speaking. Visually, too, she is shot frequently in reflection, through glass, or partially obscured by a barrier. Throughout the day, those barriers are gradually worn down until she interacts with others of her own accord. Beautifully shot making often masterful use of the 2.35 aspect ratio while at other times intentionally refusing to use the entire frame (mirroring the editing: elegant long takes interspersed with series of quick, superfluous cuts), LEE Yoon-ki’s My Dear Enemy is a sensitive and subtle film worth a deeper look in the future.