DVD Review: The Woman in the Fifth

Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski impressed critics in 2004 with his film of young lesbian love in My Summer Of Love. Now he is back with The Woman in the Fifth, his first film since. Is he worthy of repeat accolades?

Based on the book of the same name by Douglas Kennedy, Fifth tells the story of Tom Ricks (Ethan Hawke) a very broken and troubled soul who has traveled to Paris to reconnect with his estranged wife and daughter as well as write his follow up novel. However that goes horrible and a series of events leaves him in a bad part of town with no money and no where to go. Luckily a shady man offers him a place to stay at a seedy hotel as well as a very mysterious job that allows him a lot of time to write.

At the hotel he begins to catch the attention of the young barista who is working there, and he gets into fights with his loud obnoxious neighbor who refuses to flush the communal toilet. All while this is happening he meets Margit Kadar (Kristin Scott Thomas) at a literary party and she quickly seduces him. Strange and horrible things begin to happen all around Tom and slowly his life begins to unravel.

Pawlikowski definitely has an amazing eye for cinema. This is a beautifully shot film. Each scene is wonderfully framed and in-between there are cuts to close ups of incents that would make Planet Earth jealous. These moments are highlighted by larger than life sound effects that really add to the scene.

Fifth moves along at very slow pace and is in no rush to get to some big clumsy Hollywood conclusion. Pawlikowski knows where he is taking poor Tom and knows exactly when he wants him to get there. The film also benefits from not giving its audience too much information. When the film is over you are left with a lot of questions, which for me, proved for an interesting discussion with the person I was watching it with.

Ethan Hawke really steps out of his element for this one. Not only is he playing broken in a way I’ve never seen him do, he speaks primarily French throughout the film. I don’t speak French, so I’m not sure how good he was, but it seemed good to me. I’d curious to hear what a fluent speaker thinks.

The Woman In The Fith is a in interesting and original story that is beautifully shot. Hawke gives a great performance and steps out of his comfort zone for this one. If you’re a fan if psychological thrillers and/or Ethan Hawke odds are pretty high that you’ll enjoy this one.

The film is presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen format. The sound is in 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound. This is a great looking and sounding film. Even on DVD this film looks great. I bet it looks even better on Blu-ray.

Making of: (23 min.) This is an okay making of. You do get some good interviews with Hawke and the director as well as Thomas, however too many scenes from the film pad it out. The best part is when Hawke admits that the first time he read the script he really didn’t understand what was going on. But he liked the director’s previous work enough to go on this ride with him. You also get a trailer.

I really wasn’t expecting much when I sat down to watch The Woman in the Fifth and I found myself pleasantly surprised. It’s a interesting story with some good acting and great cinematography. It’s a wonder that this film didn’t get as much notice as the director’s previous film.

Flatiron Film Company presents The Woman in the Fifth. Written and Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski. Based on the novel by Douglas Kennedy. Starring: Ehtan Hawke and Kristin Scott Thomas. Running time: 84 min. Rating: Rated R for some sexual content, language and violent images. Released on DVD: September 18, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.


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