The Woman in the Fifth (La femme du Vème)


Ethan Hawke admirably keeps his eyes up.

Ethan Hawke admirably keeps his eyes up.

(2011) Drama (ATO) Ethan Hawke, Kristin Scott Thomas, Joanna Kulig, Samir Guesmi, Delphine Chuillot, Julie Papillon, Geoffrey Carey, Mamadou Minte, Mohamed Aroussi, Jean-Louis Cassarino, Judith Bennett, Marcela Iacub, Wilfred Benaiche, Pierre Marcoux, Rosine Favey, Anne Benoit, Gregory Gadebois, Donel Jacksman, Laurent Levy, Doug Rand, Tercelin Kirtley. Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski

Offshoring

The things that inspire us sometimes conflict with our baser natures. Sometimes they come from that aspect of our personalities. Regardless of our best intentions, that conflict can save us – or destroy us.

Tom Ricks (Hawke) was a young Turk in literature once upon a time. Having written a very well received book, he seemed poised to become a big success – but that was long ago and far away. So too was his wife Nathalie (Chuillot) and daughter Chloe (Papillon) who in the case of the former had divorced her husband and in the case of the latter moved with her mommy back to mom’s native Paris. Tom has followed them to the City of Lights after a brief incarceration and hopes to reconcile.

However Tom imagined that first meeting would go, it went badly with the police being called and Tom having to flee. Exhausted and with nowhere to stay, he boards a bus and falls asleep whereupon things go from bad to worse – all of Tom’s belongings and documents are stolen. Now he’s really in a pickle.

Near the bus terminus he finds a bar where he purchases a cup of coffee for the last remaining coins he has in his pocket. The barmaid, Ania (Kulig) takes pity on his plight and points him to the bar owner (Guesmi) who has a crummy apartment Tom can use and a job that Tom can do – a kind of a night watchman who sits in a cubicle with closed circuit television monitors and when people come to a door and give the right password, he buzzes them in. Tom has no idea what goes on behind the door and doesn’t much care; he’s busy writing his next novel but before that, writing long letters to Chloe.

He’s also carrying on with the barmaid who it turns out is the girlfriend of a local mobster which is liable to make things go from worse to desperate. Still, things are actually  looking up; Tom is recognized while browsing through a bookstore and invited to an event for authors. While there he meets Margit (Scott Thomas), a beautiful and elegant woman with an interest in the arts. She and he end up getting intimate and begin an affair but with strict (and strange) guidelines;  he must meet her only at her apartment in the 5th arrondissement at 5pm sharp on two specific days of the week. He is not to ask her any questions about what she does for a living or her past. All she’ll tell him is that she’s a widow but Tom seems fine with the rules; after all, she’s beautiful and willing.

Tom’s unsavory neighbor finds out about Tom and the barmaid and threatens to tell her boyfriend. Tom is devastated but as luck would have it, the neighbor ends up murdered. As Tom’s luck would have it, he comes under suspicion of committing the crime. Tom though has an alibi – he was with Margit at the time. However, when it turns out that Margit isn’t what she appears to be and his trysts with her aren’t what they seemed either, Tom’s problems have gone from desperate to impossible.

Pawlikowski’s next film (Ida) would go on to win an Oscar for Best Foreign Language film and you can see a few of the markers that connect that film with this one. For one thing, you don’t always know what the characters are thinking and they sometimes do things that are out of character for them but perfectly logical to us as the audience. Like that film, The Woman in the Fifth is filmed with an eye towards the austere; the side of Paris the tourists don’t see. The hallway lit by the pallid fluorescent lamp that makes skin tones look green, the squalor of Tom’s apartment have a severe tone. Even Margit’s lovely apartment in the Fifth has a sterile quality to it.

Hawke, who also was involved in the Oscar festivities this year for Boyhood, has been on a roll for awhile. He seems incapable of choosing an uninteresting project or delivering a subpar performace at this stage of his career. He carries the movie as a man who has been kicked around by life, many of the kicks delivered by his own foot to his own behind. Tom is unpredictable, capable of violence and yet he is almost obsessively devoted to his daughter. At first his situation seems to be that he is being punished by a vindictive bitch of a wife; as the film goes on, we are less sure that she isn’t absolutely right in trying to keep Chloe’s father away from her.

Scott Thomas is a marvelous actress who has found a lucrative career in France, rarely doing films outside her borders. The French have known, unlike Hollywood, the allure of the “older women” and write parts for actresses in their forties and beyond that are both sexy and intelligent. Hollywood tends to want to put the spotlight on actresses who are younger and with few exceptions, rarely creates roles for women of that age group that have any sort of sexuality, preferring to restrict them to mommy roles or at a certain point, grandmommy roles. It’s as if that women once they turn 40 are expected by Americans to set aside everything but their nurturing side. I suppose that is part of our Puritan heritage, but fortunately the French see things differently and actresses like Scott Thomas are regularly employed there.

As the movie goes on, there are twists to the plot that come from nowhere and are unexpected to say the least. Not wanting to give anything away, I won’t say more than that but those twists are a bit complicated and those who aren’t patient with such things may find this film to be rather more frustrating than they might find comfortable. From my point of view, these types of things are challenging; you can believe what you choose to believe in terms of what you think is going on but I guarantee you, you won’t be right – nor will you be wrong. It really is up to your interpretation.

This is truly an international film, with a Polish director who is based in England but makes a film set in France (backed by French, English and Polish producers) and based on a novel by an Irish-American author. In that sense, there is an Eastern European austerity and a French sensuality, along with an American type of thriller merged with an English style suspense. Something for everyone.

WHY RENT THIS: Hawke is always interesting. Scott Thomas is right in her wheelhouse here.
WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: May get too convoluted for some. Can be frustrating.
FAMILY VALUES: Sexuality (and plenty of it), some violence and foul language.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Although Pawlikowski is a noted Polish director, this was filmed in France and mostly financed by French sources (along with British and Polish as well).
NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.
BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $113,800 on an unknown  production budget.
SITES TO SEE: Netflix (Stream/DVD rental), Amazon (rent/buy), Vudu (rent/buy),  iTunes (rent/buy), Flixster (not available), Target Ticket (not available)
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Ghost Writer
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
NEXT: Offshoring continues!

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Four-Warned: June 2012


June 2012

Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.

The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

FOUR TO SEE
1. PROMETHEUS (1.0)
2. SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD (1.4)
3. ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER (1.6)
4. SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (1.7)
TIE. BRAVE (1.7)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. YOUR SISTER’S SISTER (1.5)
2. STELLA DAYS (1.6)
3. PEACE LOVE AND MISUNDERSTANDING (1.7)
4. THE WOMAN IN THE FIFTH (1.8)
TIE. TO ROME WITH LOVE (1.8)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

JUNE 1, 2012

6 MONTH RULE (Abanorama) Genre: Romance. A man who believes in a strict six-month limit on relationships falls in love. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles June 8). RATING: 3.3 For the hopeless romantic.
A CAT IN PARIS (GKIDS) Genre: Animated Feature. A Parisian cat lives a dual life; as the pampered pet of the mute daughter of a police detective by day and as the companion of a cat burglar by night. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 This Oscar-nominated feature was also at this year’s Florida Film Festival.
BATTLEFIELD AMERICA (Cindedigm) Genre: Urban Dance. A young businessman hires a dance instructor to turn a group of underachievers into an underground dance team champion. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 4.0 This is the kind of thing that simply doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest.
CHELY WRIGHT: WISH ME AWAY (First Run) Genre: Documentary. Country star Chely Wright makes the difficult decision to come out of the closet. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.1 Considering the general conservatism of the country fanbase, this took extraordinary courage.
FOR GREATER GLORY (ARC Entertainment) Genre: True Life Drama. A retired military man sees Mexico fall into a brutal civil war and feels compelled to act. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 An excellent cast; seems a little overly preachy to me judging on the trailer.
HIGH SCHOOL (Anchor Bay) Genre: Teen Comedy. A class valedictorian teams up with a pothead to get the entire student body stoned to protest an anti-Marijuana ordinance. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 Who’da thought I’d be longing for the antics of Cheech and Chong?
PIRANHA 3DD (Dimension) Genre: Horror. The prehistoric eating machines are back and this time they’ve made it into a water park. Release Strategy: Limited and VOD. RATING: 3.2 The first one was cheesy in a 70s horror kinda way; this one looks far cheesier.
SEXUAL CHRONICLES OF A FRENCH FAMILY (IFC Midnight) Genre: Sex Comedy. After a young high school boy is caught masturbating in school, his mother decides it’s time for the family to be less repressive about sex. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.7 Sounds interesting but with no trailer the jury’s still out.
SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (Universal) Genre: Fantasy. An evil sorceress queen seeks to destroy the only woman in her realm who could threaten her reign but her rival finds unexpected allies. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.7 A very much darker look at the Snow White legend than Mirror Mirror.
U.N. ME (Self-Released) Genre: Documentary. A scathing look at the U.N.’s failure to protect human rights. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Looks like they’re trying a bit too hard to be like Michael Moore but the question is a legitimate one.
WALLANDER (Music Box) Genre: Crime Drama. A Swedish police inspector’s dream home turns into a nightmare when the idyllic town he has moved to is shattered by a series of bombings. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.0 One of Jo Nesbo’s signature characters whose mostly appeared on television; no trailer however so hard to get a grip on the film.

JUNE 8, 2012

BEL AMI (Magnolia) Genre: Period Drama. The story of Georges Duroy, a rags-to-riches tale of 19th Century Paris from Guy de Maupassant’s novel. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 A lush drawing room/bedroom period piece with a stellar cast including Robert Pattinson as Duroy.
LOLA VERSUS (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Dramedy. After being dumped by her fiancée three weeks before the wedding, Lola tries to come to terms with her place in the world as a 30-year-old single woman. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Greta Gerwig is putting together an impressive résumé of stellar performances.
MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED (DreamWorks) Genre: Animated Feature. The zoo crew are trying to make their way back to New York but wind up stuck in Europe after a wrong turn. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 2.8 The least interesting of DreamWorks’ animated franchises.
PATAGONIA RISING (First Run) Genre: Documentary. The effects of erecting five dams in the Patagonia region of Argentina is looked at in terms of ecology, social and cultural. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.2 Looks to present both sides of the argument but one gets a sense of which side the filmmakers sympathies lie.
PAUL WILLIAMS STILL ALIVE (Abramorama) Genre: Musical Documentary. The ’70s songwriter of such hits as “Evergreen,” “Rainbow Connection” and “We’ve Only Just Begun” turns out to be very much alive. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles June 22). RATING: 2.6 I remember him from Phantom of the Paradise; this played at the Florida Film Festival last month.
PEACE LOVE AND MISUNDERSTANDING (IFC) Genre: Comedy. A stressed New York City conservative lawyer is forced to move in with her hippie mom after a divorce. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 Looks kind of fun, in a tight-ass liberal kind of way.
PROMETHEUS (20th Century Fox) Genre: Science Fiction. A team of scientists searching for the beginnings of mankind follow clues from ancient civilizations to a rendezvous in the stars – which just might spell the end of mankind. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D and IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.0 Ridley Scott returns to the Alien universe with what might be the critical winner of the summer.
SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (FilmDistrict) Genre: Comedy. A group of alternative journalists investigate a claim by a Seattle supermarket clerk that he’s discovered the secret of time travel. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles/Seattle. RATING: 2.0 The trailer is quirky in a not-quite-indie style that looks pretty refreshing.

JUNE 11, 2012

TAHRIR: LIBERATION SQUARE (Icarus) Genre: Documentary. The recent Arab Spring is documented on camcorder by a single archaeologist looking to capture history as it happened. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.3 I was hoping for a good documentary on the events in Egypt and throughout the Arab world last year but not sure from teaser if this is it or not.

JUNE 13, 2012

MARIA ABRAMOVIC: THE ARTIST IS PRESENT (HBO) Genre: Documentary. One of the art world’s most controversial artists allows unprecedented access on the eve of her New York Museum of Modern Art retrospective. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.2 She asks “Why is it art?” and I’m inclined to agree.

JUNE 15, 2012

EXTRATERRESTRIAL (Focus) Genre: Science Fiction. A young man wakes from a night of partying in a strange apartment of an (apparent) one night stand in a deserted city with a flying saucer hovering above it. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles June 22). RATING: 2.1 An alien invasion movie if it were made by Judd Apatow.
THE GIRL FROM THE NAKED EYE (Lifted Productions) Genre: Thriller. The protector of a high class escort sets out to avenge her brutal murder. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Looks like an Americanized martial arts film noir.
PATANG: THE KITE (Kushi) Genre: Drama. A successful Delhi businessman takes is family to India’s largest kite festival to be renewed. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.5 Movies about family dynamics always tend to interest me.
ROCK OF AGES (New Line) Genre: Musical. A Broadway musical utilizes classic rock of the 70s and 80s. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 2.4 Intriguing cast but miserable premise.
THAT’S MY BOY (Columbia) Genre: Comedy. A ne’er do well who owes $40,000 in back taxes to the IRS crashes the wedding of his successful but estranged son in order to get it. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.0 Looks like Adam Sandler being Adam Sandler.
THE TORTURED (IFC Midnight) Genre: Thriller. Parents take the law into their own hands when the murderer of their young son is given too lenient a sentence. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Looks to be a very intense movie based on the trailer.
THE WOMAN IN THE FIFTH (ATO) Genre: Thriller. A night watchman for a crime boss takes up a relationship with a mysterious woman, only to discover she’s far more mysterious – and deadly – than he thought. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 There appears to be a supernatural element to the film; looks very intriguing.
YOUR SISTER’S SISTER (IFC) Genre: Dramedy. A man goes to his late brother’s ex-girlfriends vacation home only to find her sister there, setting off a chain of events both awkward and revelatory. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 Another Florida Film Festival entry, another movie that looks to be one of the year’s best.

JUNE 20, 2012

KUMARE (Kino Lorber) Genre: Documentary. A well-known guru turns out to be a fraud, a filmmaker engaging in a social experiment. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.3 An interesting treatise on faith and belief that changed both the filmmaker and his “disciples.”

JUNE 22, 2012

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER (20th Century Fox) Genre: Horror. The sixteenth president of the United States turns out to have been a killer of nosferatu. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 Although the premise sounds a tad goofy, looks to be a solid summer film from the director of Wanted.
BRAVE (Disney*Pixar) Genre: Animated Feature. A Scottish princess learns that changing her own destiny is not without consequences. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.7 A new original Pixar feature and it looks smashing.
THE INVISIBLE WAR (Cinedigm) Genre: Documentary. A look at the epidemic of rape in the U.S. military. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 The subject matter is important but the trailer looked a bit choppy.
NATE AND MARGARET(Breaking Glass) Genre: Romance. A19-year-old student and a 52-year-old spinster find their lives turned upside down by their own friendship. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.7 A tagline of a gay Harold and Maude for the 21st Century doesn’t get my anticipation up.
SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD (Focus) Genre: Comedy. As the world is about to be wiped out by a meteor, a couple of people find each other during the last days. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Steve Carell looks to be at his very best in the trailer.
STELLA DAYS (Tribeca) Genre: Drama. An Irish movie theater in the1950s becomes the focal point for a struggle between the Catholic Church and Hollywood. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.6 Looks like another winner for Martin Sheen.
TO ROME WITH LOVE (Sony Classics) Genre: Comedy. Rome is the setting for a group of vignettes as a group of people find life and love in the Eternal City amidst laughter and tears. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 The latest from director Woody Allen continues to move the New York-centric director through Europe.

JUNE 27, 2012

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Drama. A young girl in an isolated bayou community whose father is dying is further challenged by an unimaginable storm. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Was one of the most acclaimed films to come out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
GYPSY (Bontonfilm) Genre: Drama. In a Slovaki Gypsy community, a 14-year-old boy is sucked into shady activities by his nefarious stepdad. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.5 A peek into a notoriously closed society.

JUNE 29, 2012

MAGIC MIKE (Warner Brothers) Genre: Comedy. A veteran male stripper takes a new dancer under his wing and tries to show him the ropes. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 Loosely based on star Channing Tatum’s life as a dancer (which he did before he took up acting).
NEIL YOUNG JOURNEYS (Sony Classics) Genre: Musical Documentary. While driving from his hometown in Ontario to a Toronto show, musician Neil Young recounts anecdotes from his life to filmmaker Jonathan Demme. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 The third collaboration between Young and Demme.
PEOPLE LIKE US (DreamWorks) Genre: Drama. After his father passes away, his deeply in debt son discovers he must deliver a large sum to a sister he never knew he had. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 The directing debut of Alex Kurtzman who with Roberto Orci has been one of J.J. Abrams’ go-to writing/producing teams.
TAKE THIS WALTZ (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. The wife of a renowned cookbook artist falls for the handsome young artist living across the street. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 From director Sarah Polley with star Michelle Williams, one of the best actresses working today.
TED (Universal) Genre: Fantasy. A young boy’s wish brings his teddy bear to life; unfortunately the living stuffed animal won’t go away even after he grows up. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 The live-action feature debut of “The Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane.
TYLER PERRY’S MADEA’S WITNESS PROTECTION (Lionsgate) Genre: Urban Comedy. A Wall Street executive under witness protection for testifying against a money laundering firm for the mob winds up staying with Madea. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.4 Is the Madea franchise beginning to run out of steam?
UNFORGIVABLE (Strand) Genre: Thriller. A successful French crime novelist falls in love with a beautiful realtor, but begins to get suspicious of her activities and hires an ex-con to follow her. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 A definite change of pace for director Andre Techine.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
Snow White and the Huntsman, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, Rock of Ages, That’s My Boy, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Brave, Seeking a Friend For the End of the World, Magic Mike, People Like Us, Ted.