Keeping Score– Cold War (2018)


This is Keeping Score. Every other week, I recommend a movie and (surprise!) a playlist that riffs on the mood and themes from the movie. Sort of like an unofficial score. 

I was recently asked what it is about period romances that gets people so riled up. (Yes, I am writing about period dramas again.) With years of period drama watches under my belt, this person came to the right place. With a balance of yearning, tenderness, and escapism, period dramas tickle some unreachable part of my brain. 

2018’s Cold War, a Polish period drama/romance directed Paweł Pawlikowski, is a compelling argument for the reach of period dramas beyond the comfort-food-keira-knightley variety. I am not alone–Washington Post called it a near perfect film. Set in 1950s Poland, the story follows a Polish composer (Wiktor) as he meets a young singer (Zula) and the pair travel, separate, reunite, separate, and reunite again. The movie watches their romance unfold in impossible tenderness between tours throughout the Soviet Bloc, Paris, and home in Poland. As a movie centered around musicians, the music made for the movie is really a part of the story. It’s gorgeous. It’s melancholy. I’ve seen it like 4 times. 

Introduced at the start of the film through a young girl Wiktor was recording, “Dwa Zerduzska” (“Two Hearts”) follows the pair throughout their 15 year romance. A romantic and deeply melancholy song, this version was a sort of thesis statement for the playlist. 

Aside from the sad stuff, I included Béla Bartók’s “Roumanian Folk Dances For Orchestra, Sz. 68.” Working with Hungarian folk music, Bartók reimagined the melodies into expansive pieces of music. Wiktor’s work with Polish folk songs and dance is deeply rooted in a romance for Polish life and people. Bartók brings the same romance here. 

Music for the hopeless romantic was my theme for the playlist. Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” was a no brainer. Easily one of the most romantic songs ever written, David Bryne’s wholesome approach to the love song (“Did I find you, or you find me?”) makes the cut. Connie Converse’s “Empty Pocket Waltz” and Julie London’s “Fools Rush In” capture a melancholy romance that’s somehow too much or too late. Throughout Cold War, the relationship between folk music and jazz tracks well between these two picks as well. Scaling back on orchestration, Stereolab’s stripped down demo for “Baby Lulu,” like the previous two mentions, strikes at the hopeless part of hopeless romance. St. Vincent’s “Happy Birthday Johnny” does the same. 

One of my favorite album closers, “String Reprise/ Treaty,” off of Leonard Cohen’s 2016 (and final album) You Want it Darker, concludes this playlist. In cinematic arrangement, Cohen makes peace with death and life (love as both their synonyms). 

Enjoy both–

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *