Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012

Lost in Paris

Ethan Hawkes and Kristin Scott Thomas Star in Haunting Drama

By David Luhrssen
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  Tom Ricks (Ethan Hawkes) is an American writer in Paris, but he’s not in town to author a novel. He wants to be a father to his grade school daughter, Chloe, but his efforts to reconnect with his estranged wife fumble miserably. With nowhere to go, and his wallet stolen, he stumbles into a Turkish café and is given a room and a job by the owner—in exchange for his passport. It’s a devil’s bargain. Ricks descends into the underworld, all the while lingering at the schoolyard talking to Chloe through the iron fence. And then things get more dangerous and more mysterious.


Written and directed by Pawel Pawlikowski from Douglas Kennedy’s novel, The Woman in the Fifth is a hauntingly ambiguous story that gropes in darkness for the line between reality and delusion, madness and something weirder. The befuddled Ricks’ back story is unclear: Did his marriage end because of a violent crime or was he sent to a clinic to recover from some serious derangement? If his past is fraught, the present plays out on a murky plane where danger lurks. He is drawn magnetically to Margrit (Kristen Scott Thomas) the moment she glides like a stately barge into a writers salon, She is a cosmopolitan, multi-lingual seductress and he falls gladly into her embrace. But the café’s barmaid, a young Polish refugee with a taste for literature, also pursues him. And he’s menaced by his vile African neighbor across the hall, who threatens to expose Rick’s affair with the Polish girl to her jealous boss.


In The Woman in the Fifth, the inexplicable creeps slowly into the troubled life of a writer whose first novel was short listed for prizes but whose personal failure sank him from view. If nothing else, Rick’s Paris sojourn will provide plenty of material for his second act—if he survives. The Woman in the Fifth is out on DVD.

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