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Unattainable desire hurts deeply, scars permanently and like in “Casablanca,” “Passionate Friends” and countless others, makes for some of film history’s most swoon-worthy stories of passion. An aching film on such exquisite pains of impossible love, Paweł Pawlikowski’s “Cold War” concurrently swells your heart and breaks it, just like the sore memory of a lover that drifted away from your life, or an intensely craved kiss that never was. It’s a tale with the makings of legendary sagas, following the union and break-up (and union and break-up again and again) of Wiktor and Zula, a classically gorgeous couple from the opposite sides of the tracks. They first meet deep in the dilapidated countryside of the post-World War II Poland. They exchange suggestive glances and embark on a stormy affair that disastrously evolves over two isolating decades and numerous unsympathetic locales across Europe.
Their love for each other never dies; it instead takes on renewed shapes and forms. Expertly braiding the historical canvas of the '50s and '60s and the era’s music into the lovers’ affair (this is one soundtrack you will quickly want to get your hands on), Pawlikowski (along with his co-writers Janusz Głowacki and Piotr Borkowski) both honors and attempts to make sense of his parents’ chaotic togetherness. But most of all, he hits a timeless cinematic nerve that pulsates with euphoric verve. The tragic yearning in the impossibly sexy “Cold War” is so palpable that it makes you feel thankful to be alive with human feelings, heartbreaks of the past be damned.