Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Woman in the Fifth, dir/scr. Pawel Pawlikowski, based on the novel by Douglas Kennedy, st. Ethan Hawke, Kristin Scott Thomas, Joanna Kulig, Samir Guesmi

Fans of Brad Anderson's The Machinist will find much to love in Pawlikowski's enigmatic and ambiguous drama, set in the hazy, half-remembered alleys, back streets, corridors and rooftops of Paris. Hawke plays Tom Ricks, a man who seems to have been plucked from reality and released into a kind of Euro-purgutory, Pirandello-style, to visit his estranged daughter. He's been away for a long time, and is, his bags having been stolen, without identity. A chance encounter with a bookstore owner leads him to Margit Kadar, a woman living in the fifth arrondissement with whom he starts an intense but soulless affair - but is she saviour or succubus? The film prefers not to say, and in direct contrast with say Scorsese's Shutter Island, decides to leave much of the more Faustian Roeg-ian mysticism unexplained. There's some clever image-play on lenses, eyes seeing and not seeing, cameras and CCTV, as well as visual metaphors for confinement and solitude that might or might not be clues as to Ricks' reality-based predicament. Scott Thomas is as alluring as ever in a part that feels a touch too slight and Kulig plays a wonderfully creepy Eastern-European waitress in a drab, under-lit Orwellian café that serves as Ricks' self-commited, personal limbo.