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.