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3.1 out of 5 stars45
3.1 out of 5 stars
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There are some films where it's almost impossible to go into detail without spoiling your enjoyment of the movie. `Woman in the Fifth' is one of those. It's an intricate, intelligent, fragmented thriller which plays with notions of reality and the boundary between imagination and actuality. Normally I'd try to tell you more about it... but I'm on thin ice here!

The film-making is exquisite. This is a modern day tale but it feels like (and references) Orwell's Paris of the 1930s, and the erratic protagonist is most definitely down and out. A troubled American writer who initially appears to be a on quest to reunite with his estranged French family, he stumbles chaotically through a washed-out, sparsely uninhabited urban landscape and seeks solace in the fictional forest he created for his first (and only) published novel.
Ethan Hawke establishes an entirely convincing character who seems caught in the roiling currents of circumstance. Rebuffed and bewildered, he drifts into territory which is both threatening and seductive. Desperate for a reunion with his beloved young daughter, he ends up in sordid situations which take a surreal turn into murder and mayhem. Finally his daughter's life is threatened and he must face up to the malign influence which has almost unravelled his existence. The ending is... ambiguous, but earlier scenes provide some important cues about what might be happening.
The supporting cast is wonderful; not just Kristen Scott-Thomas as the woman herself, but also the Polish waitress who befriends him, and the charmingly sinister Sezer who provides the writer with accommodation and employment - but at what cost? The bilingual script, swapping fluidly back and forth between French and English is entertaining, too (especially as many of the subtitles don't quite convey the same meaning as the speech...)
The overall result is a taut thriller - not an action-based adventure in the slightest, but one where all the important stuff is going on internally. We were gripped by its pace and characters, delighted by the visuals, and kept intellectually engaged by the undercurrents of the plot. We'll be watching it again to soak up more of the atmosphere, and to see if our suspicions about some of the themes are correct.

One item to note: the blurb seems to suggest that this is strongly sexual or erotic. Apart from one memorable scene (where the camera shows only faces), it's all pretty mild.
8/10
0Comment|39 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
I watched this straight after Polisse and I must say its more measured tone seemed initially rather flat; however there are quite a lot of striking images in this film and it is, at the very least, cinematic. Ethan Hawke is an excellent actor, almost unrecognisable from the newly released Before Midnight, and even his voice is completely different (it's also a role he plays largely in French). However the film is only mildly diverting, I would say; not much happens for much of the time, beyond the establishment of a highly strange set of circumstances in contemporary Paris, involving a not-quite-there American writer, his estranged wife and child, a slightly sinister boarding house he stays in, a Polish girl who works there, and a wealthy woman who lives in the 5th arrondissement (Kristin Scott Thomas). It's mainly about atmosphere, and it's not at all clear where it's going; then in the last 20 minutes things start to move fast - whether it really works is open to question, I would say, and it is presumably meant to remain somewhat shrouded in mystery anyway. It reminded me of a film called The Music of Chance from the early 90s with James Spader and Mandy Patinkin, but actually that was a better film with more shafts of humour and a deeper feeling. It also explores a similar area of meaning to Ozon's recent In the House, also with Scott Thomas, but again, Ozon's film has more wit and compels you more. For all its awareness of images I don't think The Woman In The Fifth is all that interesting to watch or a very good vehicle for the actors.
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on 15 August 2012
Polish-born screenwriter and director Pawel Pawlikowski`s fourth feature film which he wrote, is an adaptation of a novel from 2007 by American writer Douglas Kennedy. It was screened in the Special Presentations section at the 36th Toronto International Film Festival in 2011 and is a France-Poland-UK co-production which was shot on locations in Paris, France and produced by producers Caroline Banjo and Carole Scotta. It tells the story about Tom Ricks, an American university professor and writer who goes to Paris, France where his ex-wife Nathalie and their adolescent daughter Chloe lives. He gets himself a room at a place run by a man named Mr. Sezer and tries to get in touch with his daughter, but due to a restraining order he has to find ways to see his daugher without being noticed by Nathalie. While searching for opportunities to rekindle with Chloe, Tom befriends a Polish woman and at a literary gathering he meets a woman named Margit who intrigues him.

Precisley and finely directed by Polish filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski, this finely paced fictional tale which is narrated from the protagonist`s point of view, draws a moving portrayal of a struggling writer`s relationship with his young daughter, a friendly waitress and a mysterious widow. While notable for its atmospheric milieu depictions, fine production design by production designer Benoit Barouch, cinematography by Polish cinematographer Rysznard Lenczewski, editing by film editor David Charap and use of colors which empashizes it`s poignant atmosphere, this character-driven psychological thriller depicts an intriguing an internal study of character and contains a good score by British composer Max De Wardener.

This somewhat surreal, somewhat romantic, literary and enigmatic neo-noir where the story is going on as much inside the main character`s mind as in the city of Paris, is impelled and reinforced by its subtle character development, interrelating stories, cogent narrative structure, the understated and refined acting performances by American actor, writer and director Ethan Hawke, English actress Kristin Scott Thomas and the notable acting perfomance by Julie Papillon, as the protagonist`s daughter, in her debut feature film role. A condensed and at times esoteric mystery.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 31 March 2012
The opening scenes promise a moving and intriguing drama as we are introduced to the confused and dysfunctional world of Tom, an American lecturer and writer, estranged from his French wife and barred from seeing his small daughter. He gradually falls under the spell of Margit, a mysterious older woman, played by Kristin Scott Thomas, "the woman in the fifth" by virtue of her address, and possibly something else as well. In the background we see the initially plain, childlike Polish waitress who who may bring Tom a truer peace than Margit,

Proceeding at a slow pace, with lingering shots of distinctive faces, a balcony with a blurred suggestion of the Eiffel Tower in the background, red insects on dark tree bark, threadlike spiders spinning webs in a police cell, this film weaves a sense of tension, even menace, and begins to insert surreal moments between scenes of clear rationality.

When it ended quite abruptly after little over 80 minutes, I was left feeling cheated, trying to work out exactly what had happened, wondering what clues I had missed, but not doing so too hard since it seemed that the director had resorted to the realms of the supernatural, or madness, to provide a denouement. This reminded me afterwards of Hitchcock's "Vertigo", recrafted for the present day.

The film is based loosely on a novel which seems to have prompted mixed reviews and perplexed readers in a similar fashion.
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on 1 April 2014
"Woman in the Fifth" (Mongrel DVD-4857 being the North American edition which I acquired) is a strange and unsettling film which opens question upon perplexing question in the viewer's mind and resolves nothing, even at the end. My "take" is that Margit, one of the novelist's two lovers, who, it turns out, had died a decade and an half before the time of the action portrayed even begins, somehow has drawn the protagonist into another realm of time and being, suspended between present and past. Having come to Paris to be near the daughter of his marriage with a wife now estranged, divorced, the writer, depending on one's perception, either sinks into a shadow life of mental illness or into the realm of the esoteric and occult, although he does not realise how fully until the film's dénouement of the various strands of his life and those of others among the cast. Ethan Hawke as the writer is bewildered, sad, and yet at times impetuously sexy despite the pervasive gloom of his moodiness, frustration, and torment.

Some find the motion picture chaotic and disorganised. I disagree about that. The film is wonderfully artistic, and, weird and it turns out more and more to be as its action proceeds, there is a clear line, one that is artistic and intuitive, from beginning to end, though not one that is susceptible to logical explanation and analysis. There are no extra features included, either, at least in the DVD as I found it, to help to shed some light on the film's tantalisingly unresolved mysteries or regarding what prompted the movie's creators to produce what they did. The film is just its own, by turns grungy, sensuously bittersweet, and rather nightmarishly peculiar self, a wondrously odd work of art. It is not, however, for those who regard as essential a tight movie plot and straightforward path to a clear conclusion!
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on 16 May 2013
Tom Ricks (Ethan Hawke) is an American novelist who goes to Paris in hopes of patching up his relationship with his ex-wife (Delphine Chuillot) and daughter (Julie Papillon). She wants nothing to do with him because of some event in their past, which is not fully explained. Through a series of bad luck he ends up working for a man named Sezer (Samir Guesmi) as a night time doorman, a job steeped with symbolism as he works on his second novel.

Meanwhile, Tom meets a mysterious older woman (Kristin Scott Thomas) who has taken a shine to him. She is the "Woman in the Fifth." He begins an affair with her about the same time he takes up with Sezer's girlfriend, his "Polish muse" (Joanna Kulig). We don't know how weird things really are until near the end of the tale.

If I told you I understood everything in this film, I would be lying. There is symbolism in his forest writing, the bugs, and the light which dims and goes bright, none of which I fully understood. Then there is the weird aspect of the movie which turns this into an existential film, something I didn't fully comprehend. I didn't think it was worth watching a second time through in an attempt to make heads or tails out of the film.

This is an artsy film. It is in part in English and French with subtitles, and Polish with no subtitles. The action moves slow as it concentrates on the character of Tom Ricks. I am looking for a good plot spoiler review to tell me what I just watched.

Parental Guide: F-bomb (in French, spelled correctly for us in English), sex, no nudity.
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There are some films where it's almost impossible to go into detail without spoiling your enjoyment of the movie. 'Woman in the Fifth' is one of those. It's an intricate, intelligent, fragmented thriller which plays with notions of reality and the boundary between imagination and actuality. Normally I'd try to tell you more about it... but I'm on thin ice here!

The film-making is exquisite. This is a modern day tale but it feels like (and references) Orwell's Paris of the 1930s, and the erratic protagonist is most definitely down and out. A troubled American writer who initially appears to be a on quest to reunite with his estranged French family, he stumbles chaotically through a washed-out, sparsely uninhabited urban landscape and seeks solace in the fictional forest he created for his first (and only) published novel.
Ethan Hawke establishes an entirely convincing character who seems caught in the roiling currents of circumstance. Rebuffed and bewildered, he drifts into territory which is both threatening and seductive. Desperate for a reunion with his beloved young daughter, he ends up in sordid situations which take a surreal turn into murder and mayhem. Finally his daughter's life is threatened and he must face up to the malign influence which has almost unravelled his existence. The ending is... ambiguous, but earlier scenes provide some important cues about what might be happening.
The supporting cast is wonderful; not just Kristen Scott-Thomas as the woman herself, but also the Polish waitress who befriends him, and the charmingly sinister Sezer who provides the writer with accommodation and employment - but at what cost? The bilingual script, swapping fluidly back and forth between French and English is entertaining, too (especially as many of the subtitles don't quite convey the same meaning as the speech...)
The overall result is a taut thriller - not an action-based adventure in the slightest, but one where all the important stuff is going on internally. We were gripped by its pace and characters, delighted by the visuals, and kept intellectually engaged by the undercurrents of the plot. We'll be watching it again to soak up more of the atmosphere, and to see if our suspicions about some of the themes are correct.

One item to note: the blurb seems to suggest that this is strongly sexual or erotic. Apart from one memorable scene (where the camera shows only faces), it's all pretty mild.
8/10
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on 14 May 2014
Boring. Uninvolving. Incredible. Waste of good talent. Good cinematography. Sides of Paris not normally on tourist trail. Better ways of spending an evening.
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on 29 October 2012
CONTAINS SPOILERS

I really tried to like this film by watching it to the end.

It's one of those films that at the end you feel cheated.

What was in the room?
Why was the main character ill and what stopped Him seeing His Daughter?
How did the Mistress disappear when the Police come and why was She using a false ID?

I could go on, but no matter how good a film is, if it leaves you with more questions then answers, then for me, it ultimately fails...
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on 5 July 2015
Disapointing, because having read the book I expected so much more. The screen writers and the director have reduced a absorbing, well writen book that was very hard to put down into a rather boring film.
I switched it off half way through on first viewing, but tried again another day, thinking that maybe it will get better, but alas, it didn't..
Whilst it must difficult to put onto film a complex story, there must be a better way than to cut out huge swathes, and then to fill in the spaces with a variety of stills, and soft or just plain, out of focus shots. Bluray is a waste of money.
It was also a sad waste of acting talent.
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