First up is Cold War, Director Paweł Pawlikowsk's story of lovers trying to make their relationship work against the backdrop of Cold War Poland in the 1950s and '60s. The oppressive communist regime presents challenges to the couple, both as artists (they're musicians) and as lovers, and, at times, the two manage to make a mess of it all on their own. Cold War is nuanced, absorbing and at times quite moving. I'm not a fan of the ending, but I'd have to think about it more to decide if there was a better alternative.
Polish and some French with subtitles. X-ometer: 93%
They Shall Not Grow Old is a documentary you may have heard about. It was released in the UK in November, and we caught it this week at a pre-release showing. It will be out in wider release over the weekend.
The director, Peter Jackson, led a team filmmakers to renew archival WWI footage and present it in 3D. They Shall Not Grow Old follows mostly English soldiers from the outbreak of war until the Armistice. The footage is generally arranged to seem chronological, though there is no real narrative threading it all together. There is narration and a great deal of simulated war sound and the voices of men discussing their war experiences.
If you know about the trench fighting in WWI, you know that the film will be at turns gross and gruesome, though the filmmakers obviously spared us the worst. There's nothing historically earth-shattering that you''ll learn if you have reasonable familiarity with the war, but I think it's certainly a film that people should see, especially younger people for whom WWI is ancient history. Unfortunately, nearly everyone in the theater looked older than us. Maybe the audience will change with word of mouth, but I think the film appeals more to people who had grandparents who lived or may have served in that era.
I'm not sure I'm thrilled with the 3D effects that were employed in this film. Some of it was more subtle (if there's such a thing as subtle in 3D film) but it reminded me of images as they looked through those old 3D stereoscope viewers. More gimmicky than aesthetically pleasing.
Prior to seeing They Shall Not Grow Old, my most recent foray into WWI history was Dan Carlin's podcast, Blue Print for Armageddon. It's in 6 parts, each about 3 hours long, but easy to stick with because Carlin is a mesmerizing narrator and storyteller, chock full of interesting info covering everything from the big picture to the smallest details.