Two films with music and dance from the Iron Curtain of yore compete for the Golden Palm in Cannes this year.
COLD WAR by Pawel Pawlikowski, Oscar winner for his Ida, beautifully captures the people and the landscape of the post World War II Poland. A cultural troupe consisting of folk singers and dancers is being put together by the State as a propaganda tool to tour the world. This provides the canvas for the filmmaker to paint the passionate love story between the leader/conductor of this troupe and one of the singer-dancers. The director highlights the pangs the country went through during the post war years, settling itself under Stalin along with other East European nations, like East Germany. The state control is complete in all respects. The folk songs can be rewritten and set to music and dance to praise Stalin and State ideology.
The man’s efforts to immigrate to the West and settle down in Paris and his decision to go back to Poland to join her; the woman’s unwillingness to choose west in the beginning and later joining his lover for a brief period only to get frustrated and return to her roots – these journeys across border define the confusion worrying the generation of those times, to choose East or West. They did not find fulfillment and happiness anywhere. It is a matter of ‘living, just living.’
The black and white camera in its long shots and close ups bring to life the moods and emotions of the period and people. As the director puts it finally, the view from the other side will always be better.
The Russian film LETO by Kirill Serebrennikov is the story of development of Jazz in Leningrad. The gray iron gates of the auditorium through which the girls slip in and the youngsters’ enthusiasm to create music of their choice reflect the conflict existing in society. Seniors support the juniors by finding them place in that emerging music world. Relationships go through a toss. Community living and gay abandon of the performers can only be expected under these circumstances.
The well layered film evocatively portrays the emerging trends in music and a slice of the life of youngsters who decide to walk up the music road in Leningrad.
COLD WAR STILL