Most horror and sci-fi genre fans like Ethan Hawke more for this Gattacas and his Daybreakers than they do his little European love stories with Julie Delpy, or his inaccessible art films (Chelsea Walls). So, what might happen when those two sensibilities collide, as they do in The Woman in the Fifth?
About a stranger in a strange land, the Kafkaesque story is one that's possibly about murder, maybe about a phantom, probably about insanity, and certainly about isolation, alienation, rage and fear. Set in a run-down boarding house in the fifth arrondissement in Paris, Hawke plays an American novelist, Tom Ricks, who winds up having to rely on the mercy of strangers… only to find they are not so merciful after all.
After having had a disastrous attempt at reunion with his estranged French wife and their young daughter, Tom is mugged and left bereft with no place to go. He wanders into a gloomy café, where he's offered a place to stay until he can pay. He looks for work, but without his passport, it's near impossible. Falling deeper into debt with the flophouse and delving into despair missing his daughter, Tom's spirits are lifted when he meets an elegant, sophisticated and wealthy widow, Margitt (Kristin Scott Thomas). Turns out Margitt just might be a murderess. Or a ghost. Or a cipher. Or…?
The or's take an awfully long time to get to… if you have made it past the 60 minute mark, then you should be rewarded for your persistence. (Unfortunately, you won't be… no definitive answers come to the fore.)
However, The Woman in the Fifth is not a bad mood piece at all. Like most mood-driven movies, you've just got to be in the temper for it. Don't watch it when you're restless, or tired. Watch it when you're relaxed, alert, and preferably on a gloomy day or a rainy night. It's beautifully shot, well-acted, and has some absorbing moments of strange sexuality, haunt and mystery.
= = =