Thursday, June 14, 2012

Pawel Pawlikowski's moody, ambiguous THE WOMAN IN THE FIFTH hits theaters

Noirish, glum, gloomy and very weird, THE WOMAN IN THE FIFTH, the latest from critical darling Pawel Pawlikowski left me baffled and then some. Granted, I nodded off a couple of times during the screening -- not for more than a second or two -- but the movie finally made no sense to me on any level or in any genre whatsoever. Not as a mystery, broken family saga, ghost story, crime thriller, and certainly not as an immigrant tale (though the immigrant in question, for a change, is a white guy from the USA). Maybe it's a comedy? Without any laughs.

If you read TrustMovies much at all, you'll know he hates to give away plot elements, but he swears that he could spend the rest of this review spelling out the entire plot, and you would still finish up this piece with a "Huh?" In fact, isn't that rather like the look on the face of the filmmaker himself (shown at left)? Mr. Pawlikowski -- who earlier gave us the much-praised Last Resort (When, I wonder, will this one be available on DVD? I am still trying to see it....) and the also well-liked My Summer of Love -- has directed and adapted his screenplay from the novel by Douglas Kennedy, which TM has not read but is tempted to, if only to learn if it makes any more sense than does the movie.

The film's tag line, which you might just be able to make out on the poster at top, notes "What you can not resist you may not survive." OK. But given what we know by the end of the film, this has the ring of a marketing copywriter at wits' end and wondering, "What the fuck else can I say about this movie?!" Our "hero" Tom, played by Ethan Hawke (above, demonstrating that, sometimes, a pair of glasses is just a cigar), is a writer who's come to town (Paris) to see his daughter (shown in the photo at bottom, also wearing glasses).

Tom quickly ends up broke and homeless but manages to land in tiny hotel above a bar, in which the owner, played by the fine Samir Guesmi (above left), allows him to stay in exchange for working in a very odd location doing very odd stuff -- all of which has "criminal element" writ large in flashing neon.

A propos the title, there is indeed a titular and mysterious woman, played by the always exquisite and exciting Kristin Scott Thomas (above), whom our hero meets and greets and does some other interesting things to.

In that bar works a barmaid, played by the lovely Joanna Kulig, above, whom we recently saw putting her best features forward in another terrible movie called Elles. (Don't worry, Joanna: a worthwhile film is sure to appear on the horizon eventually.)

Things happen, and then more things happen, and then the movie is over. Or maybe these things don't happen, because this whole enterprise may be simply a figment of Tom's writerly imagination. Perhaps it's his next novel! Or, he's simply insane. Either way, did I give a shit? No. But maybe you will.

The Woman in the Fifth (arrondissement, I am guessing) -- from ATO Pictures and running 85 minutes -- opens this Friday, June 15, in New York City, DC, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle. In the weeks to come it will screen in other major and minor cities across the country. Click here to see all currently scheduled cities, theaters and playdates.

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