Friday 14 December 2018

Film of the week: Cold War

Cert: 15A; Selected cinemas

I, Dolours uses a mixture of archive footage and dramatisations
I, Dolours uses a mixture of archive footage and dramatisations

Pawel Pawlikowski made history in 2015 when his mesmerising post-war drama Ida became the first Polish film to take a Best Foreign Language Oscar. That outing featured a dancehall where jazz musicians played, and it is from this side plate that the Warsaw filmmaker serves this sublime follow-up based on his parents' story.

Joanna Kulig is lifted from Ida and placed down here as Zula, a gifted singer trying, like everyone, to reimagine Poland in the grey of 1946 communism. Pianist and songwriter Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) is doing likewise. The pair end up in the same music troupe that has been charged with boosting national morale by repackaging Poland's musical heritage for this new dawn.

There is little left to say about the plot other than that Zula and Wiktor lock eyes one evening and thus begins 15 years of stormy romance as their lives diverge and reunite beyond Poland's borders.

Cold War is the type of film that you watch with your mouth slightly open in disbelief. Like Ida, every frame is a celebration of the cinematic medium, composed lovingly, distilled in monochrome, and presented in the narrower Academy ratio like stills from Vivian Maier or Cartier-Bresson.

Throw in the two gorgeous leads, the messy complexity of their characters' bond, Marcin Masecki's jazz score, and the quaking post-war themes that rumble in the distance, and you have something indelible. Without any hyperbole, it is one of the films of the year, and possibly of the last decade.

If a summer of gaudy popcorn fodder and crappy blockbusters has you feeling like the movies ain't what they used to be, your ship has come in. ★★★★★ Hilary A White

C'est la vie!

Cert: Club; Now showing at IFI

Four weddings? Turns out you just need one. It has to be the right one, however, with an unforgettable crew milling around behind the scenes - setting tables, glazing vol-au-vents and shaking off hangovers long before the speeches and sniffles have begun.

Writer-director team Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano (The Intouchables) seem to have an intimate knowledge of such shindigs, if this gloriously giddy confection about a wedding company and their leader struggling at a royally OTT do is anything to go by.

Max (Jean-Pierre Bacri) is the head of the Paris catering company charged with bringing to life the elaborate shindig being staged at a stately chateau. No expense has been spared by the bride and her horrifically self-important groom (Benjamin Lavernhe), but Max has more pressing concerns - food-poisoning murmurs, dim waiters in "theme" costumes, his headstrong assistant (Eye Haidara) and the gormless photographer pal (Jean-Paul Rouve) he's hired out of pity.

Add to this a constant swirl of tangles, flirtations, feuds and misunderstandings, giving the whole thing a carnivalesque quality as it skips from one encounter to the next.

Few films this year will provide as much sheer joy as this bubbly, charming and relentlessly hilarious jog around an arena we're all familiar with. The ensemble cast has great fun with a dotty assortment of characters, every one of which is put to delightful use. ★★★★★ Hilary A White

Searching

Cert: 12A; Now showing

"Not one of those awful films where everything takes place in a computer screen - what could be more naff and claustrophobic!" To some extent, you'd be right about Aneesh Chaganty's paranoid thriller that insists on chaining you inside the screen, in a manner that is not only suffocating but a bit disingenuous too.

The good news is that Searching makes great use of the medium and what it can tell us about a user's motives and apprehensions. David (John Cho) is that user, clicking his way into a lather when 16-year-old daughter (Michelle La) suddenly stops replying to missed calls and increasingly worried text messages.

In come the police, who begin a fruitless search. Realising he might not know as much about his daughter as he thinks, David takes to the internet to retrieve her passwords and scour her search histories to find out where she is before it's too late.

Some of it is lame - would you really leave your webcam on during such a crisis? - but it keeps you guessing as it serves up a very current and sobering parental nightmare. ★★★ Hilary A White

Yardie

Cert: 16; Now showing

In 1970s Kingston, Jamaica, D watches as his beloved older brother is gunned down during a peaceful neighbourhood party. He is then taken under the wing of local hood King Fox (Sheldon Shepherd) and gradually becomes a runner and mule for the gangland boss.

After he comes of age and messes with the wrong rival gang member, D (Aml Ameen) is sent off to London by King Fox with a hidden stash and ordered to deliver it to nasty crime boss Rico (a show-stealing Stephen Graham). Only, he has a change of heart at the last minute, deciding that, with childhood sweetheart Yvonne (Shantol Jackson) and their daughter living in the city, maybe he should strike out on his own and provide for them. This doesn't go down at all well in either London or Kingston, and sets in motion a series of violent episodes as D ploughs his own furrow while seeking to avenge his brother's murder.

While pointless speculation intensifies about his chances of being cast as the next Bond (naturally, from those who have nothing to do with the project), Idris Elba opens his directorial account with this serviceable crime saga and Windrush fable that by-and-large has the right ingredients in the right places.

You'd never accuse Yardie (based on Victor Headley's source novel)

of being a particularly original yarn, but its attention to style, music and language (see Rico's pidgin) lends it enough verve to stand on its own. Sod 007 - maybe Elba has found his true calling. ★★★★ Hilary A White

I, Dolours

Cert: 15A; Selected cinemas

The notorious ex-IRA leader Dolours Price gave an interview in 2010 to producer Ed Moloney on condition it only be aired after her death. In it, Price (a vocal critic of Gerry Adams's Sinn Fein in the years leading up to her 2013 death from an overdose) tells her own version of events, from her youth in Belfast and induction into the Provos, to her role in the "disappeared", including the brutal murder of Jean McConville. A mixture of archive footage, the Moloney interview clips and dramatisations with actress Lorna Larkin, Maurice Sweeney's film is of great interest to students of the Troubles and republican history in this country. As a tale of radicalisation, it is fascinating just how hardline Price became. At a trim 82 minutes, it packs a sizeable but ultimately uneasy punch.  ★★★ Hilary A White

Sunday Indo Living

Entertainment Newsletter

Going out? Staying in? From great gigs to film reviews and listings, entertainment has you covered.

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment

Back to top