Title: Personal Shopper
Country: France, Germany
Language: English, French
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Director/Writer: Olivier Assayas
Cinematography: Yorick Le Saux
Anders Danielsen Lie
Nora von Waldstätten
The sophomore collaboration between Olivier Assayas and Kristen Stewart after CLOUDS OF SIL MARIA (2014), in PERSONAL SHOPPER, the latter is elevated to the sole leading status, plays an American girl Maureen in Paris, she is the titular personal shopper of Kyra (Waldstätten), a well-minted celebrity figure. It is a dream job for fashion-and-ego oriented girls who cannot afford the luxury but are vouchsafed to luxuriate in it as a surrogate shopper (and get well paid), by dint of high-end dress sense. But, Stewart, who emanates a distinctly counter-consumerism flair in her androgynous mien and dress-down spontaneity, takes the offer with defiant nonchalance, because Maureen hates it, not only because Kyra is an impersonal monster, but in a more personal note, she is repelled by the nature of her vocation. A theme being predictably provoked when she is abetted by eponymous messages sent to her cell phone: Does she want to become a different person? Simply by donning those haute couture (a conspicuously vain idea of identity shifting), Maureen is tempted, tried, but eventually she thinks better of it.
So, the glamorous job is merely to defray her rent, the main reason of Maureen’s drawn-out sojourn in Paris is a highly psychic one, she shares the same congenital heart problem with her twin brother Lewis, who passed away several months ago here, professing both are endowed with a medium’s made-up, and a promise to contact each other from beyond whoever dies first, she is waiting, seeking, for a sign, a signal (from Lewis) and a closure (for herself), and the wait extends while many parapsychic phenomena transpire around an increasingly jittery Maureen, including the said messages, are they from Lewis, or has she been driven to such a state that she would like to will herself to believe they are from Lewis? In due course, she would be implicated in a grisly murder, and eventually (spoilers alert), the story is puckishly topped off with yawning evasion, in the middle-east Oman, but the revelation somewhat leaves some splashes to impel viewers to examine inwardly the notion of ghost and spirit, preferably with an idealistic methodology, not dissimilar with the mystic vanishing of Stewart’s character in CoSM.
Spiritualism’s correlation with technology is a scintillating proposition Assayas assuredly propounds but seems to fumble for a clear answer, instead he dishes out Hilma af Kint’s abstract art and Victor Hugo’s séance video clip (from a fictitious TV movie) to (nominally) ginger up the intrigue, insofar as he even confects gimmicks from horror genre, a visible ghost disgorging ectoplasm, or a blink-and-you-will-miss-it apparition materializes itself in the background during an overtly extended long take focusing on Maureen. Those moments, may contradict Assayas’ preordained tack of straddling the issue, but are effective attention-stealers one might think Assayas wouldn’t deign to conduct at any rate, we all love surprises, don’t we?
Still, PERSONAL SHOPPER is an empath’s self-reliant rite-of-passage to bring down the curtain on a bereavement, on top of which Assayas grafts his sortie in psychological horror, affixed with a tangy criticism towards the glitter and vacuousness of consumerism, not a bad combo at all, if, you are not galled by an open-ended denouement staring squarely at your face.
referential points: CLOUDS OF SIL MARIA (2014) 7.0/10; Denis Villeneuve’s ENEMY (2013), 8.2/10; Jack Clayton’s THE INNOCENTS 1961, 8.8/10.