PER­SONAL SHOP­PER

Hot Press - - Critical Mass -

Di­rected by Olivier As­sayas. Star­ring Kris­ten Ste­wart, Lars Eidinger, Si­grid Bouaziz, An­ders Danielsen Lie, Ty Ol­win, Ham­mou Graïa. 115 mins

In cine­mas March 17

3.5/5 KRIS­TEN STE­WART IS TREMEN­DOUS IN UN­CON­VEN­TIONAL GHOST STORY Suit­ably for the set­ting, au­di­ences at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val can be quite dra­matic. De­pend­ing on the mood of the room, films that are medi­ocre can be met with 15 minute stand­ing ova­tions or pro­longed boos. Olivier As­sayas’ Per­sonal

Shop­per re­ceived the lat­ter, un­fairly. Not that it isn’t a mess with laugh­ably bad mo­ments – it is – but it’s also tense, eru­dite and plays with con­ven­tion in a truly com­pelling way.

As­sayas re­vives his star and some of the themes of Cloud Of Sils Maria, again cast­ing a su­perb Kris­ten Ste­wart as the as­sis­tant to a pow­er­ful woman. Ste­wart’s Mau­reen is the per­sonal shop­per of a tem­per­a­men­tal French so­cialite, and spends her days pick­ing out in­or­di­nately ex­pen­sive clothes and jew­ellery. Her dis­sat­is­fac­tion is clear, and it emerges that she’s not stay­ing in Paris for the cushy gig. Mau­reen’s twin brother has re­cently died of a heart de­fect shared by his sis­ter, and Mau­reen is now try­ing to con­tact him in the af­ter­life.

As­sayas plays with the mod­ern world and the spir­i­tual as­pects of the film in in­trigu­ing ways. The tac­tile con­sumerism of Mau­reen’s job con­trasts with the in­tan­gi­ble oth­er­worldly en­ergy she ex­pe­ri­ences, though mod­ern tech­nol­ogy does play a role, re­plac­ing spells and séances. It is med­i­cal equip­ment that high­lights Mau­reen’s mor­tal­ity, and she re­ceives men­ac­ing text mes­sages that could be from a ma­lig­nant spirit.

As­sayas and Ste­wart also evoke a sen­sual sex­u­al­ity on­screen, as Mau­reen dresses in her em­ployer’s glam­orous clothes to en­joy the for­bid­den – an­other way of demon­strat­ing how our deep­est de­sires are now com­monly ex­pressed through props.

It’s so dis­ap­point­ing, there­fore, that As­sayas’ cam­er­a­work and use of tech­nol­ogy is his down­fall. Awk­ward mid-scene fade-outs feel clumsy and dis­tracted, while some truly em­bar­rass­ing CGI breaks the flow of the psy­cho­log­i­cal drama. Some boos may thus be war­ranted – but so is ap­plause.

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