I’ve been looking for this film ever since Alison Goldfrapp posted about it on Twitter. Finally located it on Amazon Prime, with my temporary membership. This is a highly personal film that spans a number of countries and economic systems.
The movie is from Paweł Pawlikowski, who does serious dramatic films, one of which included Goldfrapp’s music, and so they have a longtime relationship. The only other thing I knew is that it was about a singer much like Alison. I wanted to imagine how Alison would have responded to this narrative. She was completely taken in by this odd story of musicians popping in and out of the Iron Curtain in the 1950s. The music is done authentically and is top notch, and the actors are incredibly talented.
Zula, the singer, has a wild side, and she’s strong, determined, like a force of nature. The one dance scene where she cuts loose is jaw-dropping. Drinking all night, and then an American Rock and Roll song comes on at the Paris club. Always annoyed with her love/hate piano player partner, she dives into the dance floor to grab anyone and everyone. It’s truly one of the great dance scenes of all time.
The film is black and white neo-noir, and Pawlikowski is the real deal. A visual master, this story does work on its own merits–but why?
I had to research it to figure out how it came to be and try and understand the ending. The film sort of stops without a proper conclusion. Now, European imports sometimes do that, but there’s something else going on here.
It’s about Pawlikowski’s parents! This was their crazy love story. As far as The New Yorker discovered, their romance continued in similar on-again/off-again fashion up until their deaths in the late 1980s. I’m not sure that the director had sufficient distance to look at the story objectively and come up with a good ending. Nobody would question his choices, of course, and so it has a kind of vague what-could-have-been feeling at the conclusion.