Cold War, Film4, Wednesday, 9pm

I KNOW, I know. I can hear you all saying it. “You come around here, bringing your black-and-white Polish arthouse movie for us to watch.” But, really, there are so many reasons to catch Pawel Pawlikowski’s gorgeous, Oscar-nominated 2018 movie.

A film about the push and pull of the heart and the totalitarian politics of place, and shot in old-fashioned, boxy, Academy ratio, Cold War is both a swoony love story and a glancing history, as the title suggests, of post-war European politics and the way it shaped and distorted the existences of those who lived through it.

It’s also a tantalising vision of people moving through cities and nights (and maybe in passing a love letter to European cinema of the 1960s).

Cold War is loosely based on the story of Pawlikowski’s own parents, “the most interesting dramatic characters I’ve ever come across,” the director has said. “… Both strong, wonderful people, but as a couple a never-ending disaster”.

Opening in rural Poland in 1949, we are introduced to Viktor (a brooding, movie-level handsome Tomasz Kot) who is recording rural folk songs and looking for singers for a choir to perform said songs in a suitably Communist-approved form.

Viktor is soon smitten by Zula (a frankly star-making turn from Joanna Kulig; you can’t take your eyes off her), one of the young women who auditions for the choir (singing, perhaps it should be noted, a song from a Russian movie. She’s not the idealist here.)

The film then follows the couple’s growing romance from Poland to Berlin and Paris and asks can it survive betrayal, political defection, and their very different personalities.

Like all love stories, it’s a movie about time and other thieves, adroitly soundtracked by the song Dwa Serduska (Two Hearts), which we hear in different versions, from folk song to choral tune to dusky torch ballad (Kulig makes for a great jazz singer).

The film itself is a seduction, told through Pawlikowski and cinematographer Lukasz Zal’s crisp, vibrant, high-contrast images. It moves quickly (it’s less than 90 minutes long) but pays close attention to the world that passes in front of the lens.

Maybe, as Manohla Dargis suggested in her New York Times review, at times it turns “suffering into high style”. But who can complain when the style is so hypnotic? Plus, there’s real feeling under the sheeny surface.

And frankly anyone who doesn’t feel their heart beat a little faster as the two lovers drift through Paris at night has clearly no romance in their soul.

NB, it’s maybe also worth noting that on Tuesday night Film4 is also showing Pawlikowski’s, sparer, starker religious road movie Ida (2013), starring Agata Kulesza and Agata Trzebuchowska, if you fancied doubling up.

The Traitor, in selected cinemas and streaming at

Watching the early scenes of veteran director Marco Bellocchio’s new film The Traitor you could be forgiven for thinking you’re in for just another mafia movie, one full of family celebrations and double-crosses. Your basic Jacobean revenge drama with a Mediterranean flavouring, in other words.

But after the usual brutal bloodletting (even priests are targeted here), what emerges after the smoke and blood is a more considered, more despairing look at Italian history, crime and corruption and toxic masculinity.

Based on a true story, it follows Sicilian criminal Tommaso Buscetta, incarnated impressively as a creature of bullish self-regard and stubbornness by Pierfrancesco Favino, on his journey from Mafiosi to informant, via extradition and a failed suicide attempt.

After being tortured and then deported from Brazil, Buscetta meets the Italian judge and prosecutor Giovanni Falcone. He eventually agrees to testify out of a desire for revenge on his former colleagues who have killed his sons and from a self-serving idea of himself as a man of honour.

What follows is a theatrical courtroom drama where accused and accuser confront each other and swap insults.

Bellocchio has made a self-consciously epic film that covers 30 years, from the 1970s to the 1990s, that aspires to being a state-of-the-nation commentary on Italian post-war society. It’s not a subtle movie, but, like its lead character, it’s full of energy and a vinegary bite.

And even if we all know what happened to Judge Falcone the recreation of his savage murder is brutal and heart-stopping here.