Director: Olivier Assayas
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Nora vonWaltstätten, Anders Danielsen Lie
101mins | Fantasy drama | France
Paris has always had a sinister side inspiring Poe’s Murders in The Rue Morgue and Balzac’s Pere Goriot, a story of social realism set near the Pierre Lachaise Cemetery: French literature is redolent with macabre stories conjured up by the dark side of the capital. So it seems somehow feels fitting that Olivier Assayas should add other chilling chapter to this spectrally charged city with his ghost-themed story PERSONAL SHOPPER.
The film is creepy, charismatic and as quirkily inventive as Olivier Assayas who has explored differnet genres in his consummate career but never a ghost story. And Kristen Stewart its star shimmers here in a sombrely subtle turns that is as dark as its subject matter. She plays the unlikely named Maureen Cartwright, a 27 year old American girl who is bored with life and living out a meaningingless few months as a personal shopper to bitchy German media figure Kyra (Nora vonWaltstätten), while she mourns the death of her twin brother Lewis.
Paris is the capital of the fashion world and Assayas works this elegantly into the plot as Maureen glides through a series of glitzy ateliers garnering hand-styled garments for her boss and jewelled accoutrements from Chanel and Cartier. This is work that fills Maureen with ennui as she considers herself worthy of better things and idly sketches and researches her yen for the supernatural and the psychic experiments of Victor Hugo and the avant garde Swedish artist Hilma af Klint. On the sly, she guiltily slips into Kyra’s couturier gowns and fetishistic footwear before pleasuring herself on Kyra’s bed during her trips abroad. Kristen Stewart brings a gamine insouciant sensuality to her role that feels both menacing and intriguing in its sexual ambivalence.
Maureen is also developing her psychic skills in trying to contact her brother Lewis who died of a congenital heart condition in a dreary nearby fin de siecle mansion where they both grew up. Spending several spooky nights there a ghostly presence is felt as Maureen whispers inaudibly in scenes that are genuinely scary and entirely plausible given the undercurrent of glowering spitefulness that vibes through the increasingly dark narrative. This leads us to believe that Maureen is herself conjuring up the devil’s work. Olivier Assayas’s wickedly inventive vision is the most exciting thing so far at Cannes 2016. MT
ON GENERAL RELEASE 17 March | CANNES FIL FESTIVAL 11-22 MAY 2016 | Best Director for Olivier Assayas