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American writer Tom Ricks comes to Paris desperate to put his life together again and win back the love of his estranged wife and daughter. When things don't go according to plan, he ends up in a shady hotel in the suburbs, having to work as a night guard to make ends meet. Then Margit, a beautiful, mysterious stranger walks into his life and things start looking up. Their passionate and intense relationship triggers a string of inexplicable events... as if an obscure power was taking control of his life. Written by
A poetic and dreamlike psychological thriller set in Paris
This is a surrealistic tour de force shot in French by Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski, who also wrote the screenplay based upon the novel by American author Douglas Kennedy. Two of Kennedy's other novels have been filmed previously, the last being THE BIG PICTURE (2010), also shot in French. As for Pawlikowski, this is his fourth feature film, the previous one being MY SUMMER OF LOVE (2004). Before that he was a highly praised director of documentaries for British television. This film is very much in the tradition of André Breton's surrealistic novel NADJA, which has inspired so much of subsequent French fiction and cinema. We have the mysterious woman who may be mad, whom the novelist hero cannot resist, we have the strange regions of Paris, we have the atmosphere of dream and illusion. Hawke, having been rejected by his ex-wife and forbidden to approach or speak to his daughter, gets onto a Paris bus and falls asleep. He is woken at the end of line to discover that his luggage and all his money has been stolen from him while he slept. He goes into a small Arab café near the bus stop to order a coffee and try to think what to do. The Arab owner offers him a room to stay in in return for confiscating his passport. The owner is married to a pathetic, depressed young Polish girl who dreams of better things but is trapped in her circumstances. Hawke, unable to sort out any other possibility for himself, accepts a mysterious night job operating access to a gangster hideout associated with the owner of the café. One day he wanders into a bookshop and is recognised by a man working there as the author of a well-known novel. The man enthusiastically invites him to a gathering of poets and writers, which he attends some days later. There he meets the infinitely mysterious 'woman of the Fifth' ('the Fifth' here is a section of the Left Bank of Paris, not a measure of whiskey), named Margit, played with arch menace and erotic intensity by Kristin Scott Thomas. He appeals to her and he ends up becoming involved with her at her insistence. But then bizarre things begin to happen. People start getting killed and he is arrested for a murder he did not commit. He takes refuge in the arms of Joanna Kulig, the young Polish actress who plays the café owner's wife. This too has consequences. Things become increasingly complex and inexplicable, and events seem to become more and more imaginary, as Hawke struggles to understand what is happening. The film's atmosphere is thick enough to cut with a knife, and the film is very artfully made. If you want to be puzzled and fascinated by mysteries which appear insoluble, this is for you.
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