Cold War 2018 *****

Paweł Pawlikowski is a man whose name critics love to invoke, even if they have to to cut and paste it. He seems to have given up wrestling with the text of his Vernon God Little adaptation, but that’s no great loss; the Polish director has a style of his own that doesn’t need to be piggy-backed on another property.  The standard-issue information, that Cold War is shot in black and white, and got an 11 minute ovation at Cannes, would make any prospective viewer’s heart sink; it sounds like the kind of three hour ‘Latvian people arguing at a kitchen table’ snorefest that provides good reason to hate art cinema. Cold War tells, in simple, stunningly composed images, the story of a love story between a musician and the singer who auditions for him. They meet and separate in various countries, across borders, through concerts and dances, until fate finds a way to bring them together ‘until the end of the world’. This is cinematic poetry of the highest order, plain yet lush, riddled with subtle yet jaw-dropping compositions. The black and white photography, so often the banal choice of an art director on a perfume commercial, is truly lustrous, and the leads are luminous; the director discovered Emily Blunt amongst others, and Joanna Kulig and Thomasz Kot should return to our screens again again before long.  The late John McCain’s line about not ‘hiding behind walls’ is relevant here; it’s a timely story about how borders, and politics, can bend and shape our most vital relationships. Given that the same director’s previous film, Oscar-winner Ida, felt more worthy than entertaining, Cold War is a huge personal statement by the director and a scintillating film to watch in HD.

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Ernest and Celestine 2012 ***

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Arriving with little fanfare, this French animation won an Oscar nomination and plaudits for the charming, water-colour animation created by the GKIDS studio. Ernest is a bear who is demonised for his large and imposing shape, and he finds friendship with Celestine, an orphaned mouse who refuses to believe what she’s told about evil bears. Ernest refuses to make a dinner of Celestine,  and the two embark on a partnership that sees them marked down as criminals who can’t accept a bear/mouse relationship. Adapted from Gabrielle Vincent’s book, Ernest and Celestine is a lovely piece of hand-drawn work from directors Stéphane Aubier , Vincent Patar and Benjamin Renner, and this subtitled version is a pleasant diversion for kids of all ages.

Once 2006 ***

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Now a successful Broadway musical, Once is a bittersweet romance set on the streets of Dublin, between a guy and a girl, both unnamed. Played by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, they are an unemployed musician and a young immigrant girl brought together by their love of making music. The tender nature of their relationship is engagingly caught by writer/director John Carney, with the image of the girl trailing her broken vacuum cleaner around the city summing up the whimsical but realistic tone. An Oscar-winner for best song, Once is an uplifting film about and for music lovers; Hansard is still touring today, playing his songs to appreciative audiences.