THE WOMAN IN THE FIFTH written and directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, from the novel by Douglas Kennedy, with Ethan Hawke, Kristin Scott Thomas, Joanna Kulig and Samir Guesmi. A Mongrel Media release. 85 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens Friday (June 15). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNN
Seven years after the excellent My Summer Of Love, writer/director Pawel Pawlikowski returns with this oblique, sensual study of an American writer (Ethan Hawke) who comes to Paris to visit his daughter and ex-wife and winds up penniless, living in a flophouse hotel and working as a security guard.
Eventually, he meets a mysterious woman (Kristin Scott Thomas) who takes him into her bed for enigmatic reasons. Pawlikowski's working from a novel by Douglas Kennedy, but he's far more interested in mood than plot. The Woman In The Fifth is a tonal study in much the same way as Polanski's The Tenant and Roeg's Don't Look Now, using elliptical editing and abstract dialogue to evoke a sense that things are drifting further and further beyond the protagonist's control and comprehension.
It can be a little frustrating (the audience at my screening started arguing about the story as soon as the house lights came up), but Hawke's sympathetic performance gives the film an emotional continuity that seems to make sense of things even when things don't make sense at all.