Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Pawlikowski’s Woman in the Fifth
Ricks is a writer, so he must be a little off.
With only one obscure novel to his name, the American cuts an
underwhelming literary figure, but he has enough issues to earn a restraining
order from his French wife. Following
her and their daughter to Paris does little for his overwrought state of mind
in Pawel Pawlikowski’s The Woman in the
opens this Friday in New York.
than thrilled to see him, Nathalie Ricks promptly calls in the
gendarmerie. Beating a hasty retreat,
Ricks finds himself penniless at the flop-house motel run by gangster
Sezer. To pay for his room and board,
the novelist accepts a job working as a sketchy subterranean watchman for one
of Sezer’s criminal endeavors. He
figures it will give him time to work, but his writing is definitely not of the
healthy variety. The only bright spot
are his semi-regular assignations with Margit Kadar, an elegant and alluring
widow of a Hungarian novelist perhaps even more obscure than Ricks, living in
Paris’s 5th arrondissement.
his ex shuns his reconciliation attempts, Ricks attracts the romantic attention
of Ania, the Polish immigrant waitress at Sezer’s tavern, who also happens to
be the mobster’s lover. This profoundly
destabilizes the novelist’s situation.
It also starts a chain of events leading Ricks to suspect a hitherto
unknown force is meddling in his affairs.
on the novel by Douglas Kennedy, Fifth blends
elements of genre cinema in ways that would be spoilery to discuss in
detail. However, Pawlikowski is more
interested in presenting an extreme psychological study with a distinctly
Continental art film sensibility than aiming for mere thrills or chills. Never rushing the revelations, Pawlikowski
still deftly creates sense that all is not right with his protagonist and his
a multinational ensemble, Ethan Hawke and his terrible French accent are
effectively moody and withdrawn as the socially problematic Ricks. Polish actress Joanna Kulig, recently seen
(and very much exposed) in Malgoska Szumowska’s Elles, is also quite credible as the glammed-down Ania. Yet, Kristin Scott Thomas is the crucial
piece of the film’s puzzle. Always an
intelligent presence, she is absolutely perfect cast as the sophisticated
Kadar. The audience instantly shares
Ricks’ interest in her—and of course her accent is always flawless, in both
French and English.
Fifth’s slow build and emotionally detached approach to
Ricks’ existential drama might difficult for some viewers to whole-heartedly embrace. However, it is a smart, stylish film. Indeed, cinematographer Ryszard Lenczewski’s
chilly gray color palette nicely suits the on-screen mystery and alienation. It is the sort of film viewers will kick
around in their heads for days after screening it, which is an increasing
rarity. Highly recommended for fans of
European cinema with a dark twist, Woman
in the Fifth opens this Friday (6/15) in New York at the Village East.
Labels: Kristin Scott Thomas, Pawel Pawlikowski