A LATE addition to this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, Cold War (*****) provides a welcome injection of artistic brilliance into a lineup that’s a little short on top-tier arthouse fare. Pawel Pawlikowski’s first film since his Oscar-winning Ida sees the formerly British-based filmmaker burrowing ever further into his Polish roots with a haunting love story loosely inspired by his own parents’ tempestuous relationship.
Set against the backdrop of the massive political and cultural changes taking place across post-war Europe, the film tracks the fiery relationship of jazz musician Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) and singer Zula (a star-making turn from Joanna Kulig) over a 15-year period during which their initial spark keeps reigniting in ways both dreamy and destructive. As with Ida, it’s shot in period-evoking black and white, which gives the film a nostalgic cinematic sheen while maintaining focus on the harsh reality of lives lived under restrictive conditions.
Like a bleaker, Eastern Bloc take on Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, this is a film that understands the intensity and complexity of a true connection as it reverberates through the years.
Sticking with Polish filmmakers, Ewa Banaskiewicz and Mateusz Dymek’s My Friend the Polish Girl (**) is a British-set drama, also shot in black and white, that uses the guise of a documentary to explore — albeit somewhat tenuously — the immigrant experience in post-Brexit Britain. Framed as the debut project of a narcissistic American documentary maker (Emma Friedman-Cohen) trying to make a film about a struggling Polish actress (Anita Piotrowska) living in London, we’re expected to buy into the idea that their darkening relationship metaphorically represents the way society at large exploits and discards immigrants. Sadly the acting and writing isn’t convincing enough to transcend its intentionally pretentious conceit.
A nationwide secret screening of Incredibles 2 (****) in multiplexes earlier this week means that the big EIFF family gala this weekend for Pixar’s new film isn’t even its first public screening in Edinburgh, let alone Scotland. Thunder duly stolen, though, the film is a solid sequel, even if the unusually long 14-year gap between films means its take on superhero lore isn’t quite as fresh. Still writer/director Brad Bird’s smart decision to focus the story on Holly Hunter’s Elastigirl makes it more in tune with the Time’s Up era and the nascent powers of baby Jack-Jack steal the show.
Cold War is at Cineworld, Edinburgh, tomorrow; My Friend the Polish Girl is at the Odeon on 26 June; Incredibles 2 is at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh tomorrow and on general release from 13 July