Olivier As­sayas hearts Kris­ten Ste­wart

The star’s “Clouds of Sils Maria” di­rec­tor talks about re­unit­ing in “Per­sonal Shop­per.”

Metro USA (New York) - - Film - MATT PRIGGE @mattprigge matt.prigge@metro.us

In 2015, Kris­ten Ste­wart won the Ce­sar — ba­si­cally, the French Os­car — for Olivier As­sayas’ “Clouds of Sils Maria,” a Euro­pean drama where she played the per­sonal as­sis­tant to a fa­mous ac­tress (played by Juli­ette Binoche). It worked out so well, the ac­tress did it again. In “Per­sonal Shop­per,” she and As­sayas re­unite to make his ver­sion of a ghost movie — which is to say it’s not a hor­ror film but a char­ac­ter study, and also a kind of doc­u­men­tary about Kris­ten Ste­wart. The ac­tress plays a woman try­ing to con­nect with her re­cently late brother’s spirit. In be­tween she ekes out a liv­ing in Paris pick­ing up high-end clothes for a worka­holic client.

We talked to the ac­claimed French film­maker, of movies like “Irma Vep,” “Car­los” and “Sum­mer Hours,” about work­ing around pa­parazzi, avoid­ing Hol­ly­wood and his def­i­ni­tion of “ghosts.”

Kris­ten Ste­wart at­tracts a lot of fans and pa­parazzi. How did you han­dle shoot­ing with those crowds around?

When we were shoot­ing on the streets, we ended up hav­ing a lot of fan pho­tos on the in­ter­net of Kris­ten on her bike. The pa­parazzi and fans, some­how they have their ways of know­ing where she is. I don’t know how they do it, but they have their ways. I try not to think about it. But at some point it be­comes an­noy­ing, be­cause it’s in the way of Kris­ten’s con­cen­tra­tion. All of a sud­den she’s wor­ried by this and that.

But in terms of shoot­ing at the sta­tions, it wasn’t a prob­lem. Peo­ple just don’t imag­ine she would get on a train or be there. We would hide the camera and just put her in the crowd. We would have her wait for a train and she would go into the crowd and walk around on her own while we filmed her. It was kind of fun. And ul­ti­mately the dif­fi­culty we had was the kind of dif­fi­culty we would have with any sim­i­lar shot in any sim­i­lar film, even if we were mak­ing a film with an un­known.

There’s al­most a doc­u­men­tary qual­ity to the film. Some­times you’re sim­ply fol­low­ing her around do­ing me­nial things, and the more tra­di­tional scenes have a loose­ness to them, too.

It was about doc­u­ment­ing Kris­ten go­ing through the emo­tions I have put in mo­tion. Be­cause she’s such an au­then­tic ac­tor. She needs to make ev­ery­thing feel real. In the film you see her build­ing up these emo­tions. I’m kind of doc­u­ment­ing that process.

You have a very dif­fer­ent ap­proach from the Hol­ly­wood style, which seems more like fol­low­ing a ready-made blue print.

Yeah, but that’s not the film­mak­ers’ fault, that’s the sys­tem. What’s de­press­ing is the Hol­ly­wood sys­tem is so much about con­trol. And there’s noth­ing more bor­ing than con­trol. You’re so priv­i­leged to make movies. Mak­ing movies is fun. It’s a plea­sure. And Hol­ly­wood is all about tak­ing the plea­sure out of it. [Laughs] It’s too se­ri­ous. Mak­ing movies, even if you’re mak­ing a se­ri­ous movie, is al­ways like chil­dren play­ing.

And in movies there is this ex­cit­ing, col­lec­tive pur­pose. You’re shar­ing some­thing with a lot of peo­ple. You’re giv­ing them the op­por­tu­nity to a part of some­thing big­ger than them, big­ger than all of us. There’s a real beauty there. That’s what film­mak­ing is about. And Hol­ly­wood kind of spoils that. Ul­ti­mately that’s the rea­son I’ve never [worked in Hol­ly­wood]. I’d cer­tainly have a hard time adapt­ing.

IFC FIMS

Kris­ten Ste­wart plays a woman try­ing to con­nect with the spirit of her dead brother while keep­ing up her job (pick­ing up high-end clothes for a wealthy client) in Olivier As­sayas’ “Per­sonal Shop­per,” now in the­aters.

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