Now that this haunting Polish film starring and directed by artists with unpronounceable names has been nominated for a foreign-language Oscar and for its exquisite, boxy, black-and-white cinematography, Ida is back in the conversation. Even if it’s not at a nearby theater, you can buy or rent it on Blu-ray or stream it on Netflix. As for the bitching that the English subtitles are too small to read on a smartphone, come on. They’re no smaller than a tweet. Don’t be a lazy-ass.
Ida is an art film in the finest sense of the term — it is austere technique counterbalanced by emotions that bleed. Director and co-writer Paweł Pawlikowski (My Summer of Love) sets his tale in 1962, when convent-raised Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska), 18, is about to take her final vows. That’s when she learns she has an aunt, Wanda (Agneta Kulesza), a boozy, chain-smoking judge known for her hard line against enemies of Communism. Wanda is Jewish, as is Anna. It was Wanda who abandoned her niece, born Ida Lebenstein, and participated in the judicial terrors of the time. It takes a scant 80 minutes for Pawlikowski to let his story of saint and sinner unfold on the faces of his two remarkable actresses. No spoilers here, only my advice to avoid multiplex crapola like Mortdecai and The Wedding Ringer and let yourself be enveloped by a modern cinema classic.