Today: February 29, 2024

The Woman in the Fifth

Anglo-Polish filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski’s latest work can best be described as pan-European.

Anglo-Polish filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski’s latest work can best be described as pan-European.

Set in Paris, it features actors from across the Continent, as well as from the US, conversing in English and French, with varying degrees of competence. While the female lead, Kristin Scott Thomas, is fluent in both languages and her co-star, Ethan Hawke, may be familiar with the Parisian streets he does struggle with the language.

Hawke plays American author Tom Ricks, who has returned to the French capital to try and win back the affections of his estranged wife and daughter, although the wife has different ideas, which leads to Ricks becoming homeless and broke in one of the city’s rundown suburbs.

He finds accommodation above a less than salubrious bar run by small-time Arab criminal, in exchange for a no-questions-asked job as a night watchman.

However, when he meets the enigmatic Margit (Scott Thomas), the woman of the title, at a literary evening, they embark on a passionate affair that eventually threatens not only the safety of Ricks’ daughter but that of Ricks, and possibly his sanity as well, as he tries to understand what is happening in his life.

Based on a story by Douglas Kennedy, nothing is ever fully explained, often leaving us as much in the dark as Ricks is, but Pawlikowski guides us through this mysterious world, made up of both dreamy and nightmarish visions, to a conclusion that both is and isn’t resolved, as is the way of the finest European art house cinema.


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