Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"The Woman in the Fifth" is a French homage (by a Polish filmmaker) to the style of David Lynch


David Lynch certainly inspires other filmmakers to try weirdness, which is not to say they are copycats. Sunday's film proved that, and lightning seems to strike twice in almost the same place. 

That’s the case with the film “The Woman in the Fifth” (“La femme du Veme”). Tom Ricks (Ethan Hawke, still looking good in skivvies at 41 in a couple scenes), has traveled to Paris after getting fired from a professorship over a scandal.  He says he wants to reunite with wife and daughter, but actually his divorce was bitter and he’s under court order to stay away.  After an unsuccessful attempt to visit the daughter in his ex-wife’s posh Paris apartment, he goes on an odyssey, getting robbed while asleep on a bus, and winding up on skid row.   He gets a room for barter by working for a mob boss  Sezer (Samir Guesmi), watching the fort at an underground bunker where hit men pay visits to consort.  He works on is next novel by cursive longhand (does he have a computer?)  And he encounters a mysterious widow from Romania or Poland, Margit (Kristin Scott Thomas) who seems to offer him a restoration of manliness (but he has to stick to a strict schedule to visit her in the Fifth arrondisement).  So does a younger, still very nubile woman (Joanna Kulig) in the pension.

Pretty soon things go bump in the night, people start dying or disappearing, and Lynch-like owls, wood spirits and phantoms populate his life.   Has he slipped into madness (as if he were schizophrenic), or a parallel universe?

Director Pawel  Pawlikowski, adapting a novel by Douglas Kennedy, keeps the audience glued to the screen, with lots of little effects.  There’s a mysterious trouble light that flickers in the bunker, and the commode in the hotel gets unusual attention, as does a neighbor.  Little blackmail notes get written by hand rather than transmitted as ransomware, which wouldn’t look as good on camera.   

I saw the film, distributed by Art Takes Over (produced by Film4 in the UK, Haut et Court in France, Canal+, and the Polish Film Institute, at the West End Cinema in DC.  The small venue seems to have installed new digital projection, as the images and sound were much crisper than before.  (Does this mean using a Blu-Ray advance DVD, or digital feed, rather than film?)

The film is in French (about 2/3 of the time), English and Polish. 

The official site (will launch Shockwave) is here.


Today’s short film is a selection from YouTube’s “Once a Week Film Fesitval  (link), and is “The Fourth”, by Jared and Justin Varava (and "Big Fantastic").  Lucas Fleishcer plays a hirsute San Fernando Valley jock trying to complete a track team by recruiting a fourth man from the competing teams.  It will even provide a jogging outfit.    Is this like baseball free agency?  He needs to shave off some time on his 440 sprint, and at the very end announces he will shave his arms and legs and use "more permanent measures" like electrolysis (or lasers).  We don’t get (or have) to see that.  The viewing link (17 min.) is here.

Pictures: Mine (2012): Paris in Las Vegas;  Upton, CA (didn't take any pix in the Valley; it seemed boring by comparison to other places.)  

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