Personal Shopper Screen 45 articles

Personal Shopper


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  • As with Sils Maria, Assayas patently strives to make a statement on the social media-saturated, celebrity-infatuated modern world. But the director is perennially undecided about whether he should luxuriate in the glitz from within, or stick to critiquing it from without. Of this superficial environment, then, he has precious little of any profundity to say, and the shallowness of his commentary is compounded by the gaucheness of Personal Shopper’s ghost scenes.

  • I’d love to report that Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper, which set off a chorus of disapproval at its press screening last night, is a misunderstood masterpiece—or even that it’s as strong as Assayas’ hugely divisive techno-thriller Demonlover, which got booed here back in 2002 (my very first time at Cannes). But the best I can do is insist that it’s a must-see for anyone who wonders what it might look like if a cerebral French art-film director tried to make The Conjuring 3.

  • Despite the Skinemax-level plot elements and occasional bits of breathtakingly stupid dialogue, Personal Shopper actually feels like Assayas's version of a David Lynch film, complete with that ever-so-Lynchian theme of the transference of self. But where the director of Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet immerses, Assayas distances; he doesn't share Lynch's fondness for texture, or hothouse surrealism, or melodrama.

  • Assayas’s deconstructed Parisian giallo fails to make sense, as gialli often do. Hounded by the most unwitty barrage of sexts in the short history of texting, Maureen moves through a disconnected contemporary world in which communication is ghostly, identity slippery, and S&M meets SMS. Every moment of the film’s plot is predictable. As Stewart browses racks of clothes to try on in her employer’s apartment, the film’s big mystery becomes: how long before she masturbates?

  • Because the movie accepts the existence of ghosts as a given, it turns into a psychological thriller, and then a spooky horror, while exploring elements of Maureen's character in quieter, sadder, less suspenseful scenes, hinting at depths the movie never quite reaches. Critics have disagreed widely, and it is easy to see why, but it is still highly recommended to see it for yourself and wonder what this could have been with a stronger screenplay, given how fascinating it is to watch already.

  • Much is made of the risk that goes into acting, of performers putting their bodies on the line, but directors are inevitably equally on the line... Olivier Assayas’s “Personal Shopper” is a big leap and a big risk, one that puts his artistry to the test along with that of the movie’s star, Kristen Stewart; from the start, it’s an admirably bold movie that suggests an unusual and palpable urgency on Assayas’s part, which only makes its failings all the more pronounced.

  • An Assayas ghost story that itself ends up in limbo, somewhere between the ridiculousness of a good B-movie and the serious tragedy that allows high-minded horror to pull it off. It's most successful when Stewart’s character is enigmatic and when Assayas leaves you wondering which genre the film will pick next. It can keep you guessing right up to moment you realize it leaves you with less than both of you want.

  • Assayas has ventured into the genre arena before, with 2002's sci-fi "Demonlover" and the 2007 thriller "Boarding Gate," but "Personal Shopper" marks his first step into the horror arena. However, this is a cinephile's idea of a horror movie, their headiest ingredients elevated to an abstract plane. The slick camerawork, slow-burn tension and mysterious circumstances have less to do with shock value than the interior processes behind it. Above all, this is a character study about alienation.

  • Assayas's film still seems a little more vital [than Julieta], in part because Stewart's performance—which smart money says will be Cannes's Best Actress winner—is such a wholly virtuosic display, really projecting every bit as much strength as vulnerability. Both films, though, seem considerably more interesting in the context of a Cannes competition lineup they stand apart from than they might be on their own merit.

  • Films are highly permeable, where the unexpected happens, shows up or leaks in: situations and conditions, actors and locations all combine into something frozen in images animated into an untangleable hybrid. French director Olivier Assayas is no stranger to unusual combinations, but his new film Personal Shopper with remarkable abruptness tries to integrate two seemingly unrelated stories, making for an unexpected, beguiling, often silly, but always risky cinematic experience.

  • Ovations can be as cheap and unreliable a marker of quality as the jeers. Olivier Assayas’s competition entry, “Personal Shopper,” starring an exceptional Kristen Stewart, was unfairly booed at its first press screening... “Personal Shopper” primarily comes across as a lovingly appointed platform for Ms. Stewart’s talents and beauty.

  • The film doesn’t always feel entirely coherent, but the ghost-story elements are genuinely unsettling, and Assayas’s fleet editing style ensures we have little time for pondering the story’s precise credibility.

  • It's as light and ephemeral as it is mysterious and moving, and constitutes a stream of inklings of active ideas which just so happen to have emerged in the form of a motion picture. It all comes and then goes, always disconcertingly mellow considering the nerviness of its images, as though it means to evolve into something truly bug-fuck but instead sits there sombre and stone-faced. A genuinely radical piece of filmmaking, if only for its conspicuous eagerness to disappear completely.

  • Every time I see an Assayas film, I want it to be the one where he penetrates his self-imposed emotional remoteness, the one where the drama is as supercharged and sensual as his song choices. Personal Shopper comes close enough that I’ll remember its erotic highs more sharply than its sadistically earnest lows, but once you’ve had to pull a jacket out of your own mouth like a drunken magician, you and a movie are never going to look each other in the eye. In short, dead.

  • The movie divided critics; the film’s Cannes premiere apparently elicited both hisses and a standing ovation. Stewart’s tendency to mumble here can indeed irritate. But the film’s conclusion offers a satisfying mix of suspenseful communication with the dead and art-house ambiguity.

  • A good thriller and a silly ghost story—despite the writer-director’s sense of social media as a new form of spiritualism. It’s also a vehicle for Kristen Stewart, without doubt the cinephile actress de jour, and a bit of a promo for the Swedish painter Hilma af Klint, who has been posthumously elevated from Theosophical eccentric to the mother of abstract art.

  • Stewart makes the scenes of her character’s day-to-day life seem unrehearsed and intimate, as though the movie were peering in on someone whose thoughts were always someplace else. A lot of it is the magic of casual gesture—things she does with cups of espresso, boarding passes, keys, her iPhone... Personal Shopper isn’t always successful; there are spots where it borders on nonsense. It rarely pairs wants with satisfactions, clues with solutions.

  • Assayas is a self-consciously diverse filmmaker whose stylistic swerves and sometimes wildly different aesthetics/thematics allow him to repeatedly return to the same general thematic interests without getting stale... [Assayas’s approach] places him in a long lineage of French filmmaking, aligning himself once again closer to Truffaut; Personal Shopper is a manifestation of the strains and resulting pleasures of navigating these questions.

  • It's a ghost story, and this structure plays unexpectedly well to the strengths of both Stewart and Assayas. For her part, Stewart as Maureen is suspended in time, waiting for a sign from her dead brother that may or may not come. But since so much of that question... has to do with the listener staying attuned to small flickers and micro-impulses that no one else will see, it is a natural match for Stewart's style of performance. She is a sensitive membrane reacting to the smallest vibrations.

  • Strange, compelling, and at times frustrating, Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper is – appropriately for a modern-day ghost story – a film determined to disorient and unsettle both its characters and viewer throughout. Defying genre conventions and easy conclusions at every turn, it is somehow a postmodern pastiche of gothic horror, a nuanced portrait of grief, and an investigation of life under late capitalism – all at the same time.

  • Just as its heroine, Maureen (Kristen Stewart), secretly dresses up in the haute couture of her celebrity paymaster in an attempt to “become someone else,” this is a complex experimental movie which masquerades in an eye catching garment emblazoned with silver-spangles and which boasts a deep, plunging neck-line.

  • For the preservation of enjoyment, no more should be revealed about the film's gliding, glassy sashay through multiple, splintered genres and levels of consciousness – except to say that Assayas, working in the high-concept, game-playing vein of his 'Irma Vep' and 'demonlover', is in shivery control of it all. And he's found an impeccably attuned muse in Stewart.

  • A strange and beautifully made film: That it was booed by the first audience to see it in Cannes, a press audience, means nothing—if anything, it’s a measure of how challenging and original the picture is... Stewart is both laid back and ablaze here. She’s an actress who’s always a little behind the beat: Her smile often comes on slowly. Her eyes can be as alert as a tiger’s, but more often they seem to assay the world with the cool, lazy blink of a lizard.

  • Ghost manifestations tend not to scare me, and I can’t say this one did either, but it did nicely rattle the rafters of my thoughts around grief; and I loved the way the unfolding terror is handled, through the use sometimes of the corniest methods, and almost lightly.

  • It was the one Competition film to truly throw expectations to the wind that was treated most neglectfully. Olivier Assayas’s Personal Shopper, a strange, compulsively involving, and often baffling supernatural thriller starring Kristen Stewart is a work, with its marquee casting, genre configurations, and auteurist bonafides, seemingly out to examine notions of critical thinking generally held as truth.

  • What some of us oldsters understood is that smartphones have rendered the classical who-knows-what-and-when-do-they-know-it construction of thriller plots inoperable. In response, Assayas creates suspense, not simply by having Maureen plagued by texts from an unknown source, but by blinding her to the possibility that the sender is very much alive and dangerous because she wants to believe that the messages come from beyond the grave.

  • An uncanny mix of ghost story and personal drama that never feels, even for a moment, like it’s playing into any genre conventions whatsoever—the film is entirely its own entity.

  • So much of Assayas's work is devoted to how the search for the self is thwarted by the reality that identity isn't a fixed position and that it shifts over time in response to stimuli and one's environment. As Personal Shopper's various strands don't so much lead to a conclusion as they abruptly cease, the film reveals itself to be the most complete expression of this subtext that runs throughout Assayas's films, slipping in and out of related but distinct genres.

  • Regardless of how one might choose to make intellectual sense of Personal Shopper, it has a raw and palpable emotional effect. Where Clouds of Sils Maria functioned as a pas de deux between Juliette Binoche and Stewart, this is essentially Stewart’s solo, and without betraying her dispassionate, bordering on somnambulant veneer, Stewart taps into something deeply sad and searching with her performance here.

  • This may stand as the best-possible hybrid of the two, distinctly different types of Olivier Assayas films: the quieter, more contemplative Assayas (think: Clean, Summer Hours, Clouds of Sils Maria) and the 'edgy,' globe-traversing thrillers (e.g., demonlover, Boarding Gate, Carlos). Almost everything attempted here works, and while it leaves some of its various, intertwined strands loose (a big plus, in my book) it never feels disjointed or like less than the sum of its generic parts.

  • Something here about a generational paralysis, something about technology's reconfiguration of personal space being a sanctuary but also a prison, but mostly a case of Assayas successfully - in fact, exuberantly - making a Hitchcockian thriller (obvious Best Scene: the texting ghost) and Stewart confirming her credentials as purveyor of an artful, bruised-but-amused, tired-before-her-time mistrust of a world that gives too much and not enough. "Do you want to be someone else?"

  • 2016 reinvigorated horror with the release of Creepy, Daguerreotype, Conjuring 2, The Neon Demon, and The Wailing, all of which shaped pastiche to their individual tastes and terrors. But for all their formal playfulness, none of these strong films stretched the conventional boundaries of genre more than Assayas'.

  • If you were expecting either a genre story of the paranormal, or a realistic story about the life of a Parisian personal shopper, Assayas’s latest film may infuriate you. For this is also a psychological study of a young woman coping with unresolved grief for a sibling who seems more like a lover. In addition, this is partly a suspense-thriller. The most momentous event in the story is a murder—Maureen stumbles upon a blood-soaked corpse—though the crime is treated with bizarre casualness.

  • Assayas observes some beyond-the-grave conventions... but his film also delves, almost whimsically, into a secret intertwined history of abstract art and spiritualism... That kind of move makes Personal Shopper hard to pigeonhole: it plays smoothly as both a lithe, introspective journey and an illustration of the disembodied interconnectedness of contemporary life, which can seem at once magical and banal, like the second coming of the supernatural and just business as usual.

  • In 1976's The Devil Finds Work, James Baldwin makes a crucial verb distinction when discussing the screen legends, like Bette Davis, with whom he was transfixed (sometimes uneasily so) in his youth: "One does not go to see them act: one goes to watch them be." When one goes to see Kristen Stewart in Personal Shopper, a shape-shifting, resolutely of-this-moment ghost story that features her in nearly every frame, one goes not to watch her act but refract. I mean this as high praise.

  • Stewart finds ways to make even the smallest gestures resonate with inner stirrings. It’s an unusually physicalized performance — the camera seems to cling to her every mood and movement. Personal Shopper is a movie full of uncanny presences, none more so than its star. “Film has a strange ability to capture some invisible dimension of the world,” Assayas has said. Personal Shopper doesn’t only capture some trace of that world. It asks us to believe in it.

  • There is a beguiling tradition of commingling spiritualism and art, exemplified by the words and works left behind by abstract painters Hilma af Klint and Wassily Kandinsky... These ideas are both embodied by and directly confronted in Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper, to head-spinning, profoundly moving effect. I have not been so beautifully, ferociously shaken by a film in a very long time.

  • The money is good but Maureen heavily resents the job – not just for her boss’s tyrannical, self-absorbed manner, but also because it bores her and keeps her from her real obsession: trying to commune psychically with her dead twin. The difference in registers between these two pursuits is a bizarre and interesting pairing that takes the film beyond what might otherwise have been just a breezy lampoon of industry narcissism, or a straight-up supernatural thriller.

  • Assayas layers two historical iterations of ghosting that serve as provocative analogues: the contemporary experience of technologically dependent, physically disembodied communication via text messaging and Skype calling, and the late 19th century/early 20th century wave of spiritualists who sought to connect with the afterlife. The way in which these two eras are linked... is pure Assayas in its deceptive banality, its nonjudgmental deployment, and its in-the-moment layering.

  • The first time one encounters Olivier Assayas’s latest film, one is bound to be simply caught up in its strange mélange of genres and styles: its mix of ghost story, paranormal mystery, and character drama, of naturalism and surrealism. Upon a second viewing, however, it’s a feeling of melancholy that dominates.

  • An actor of fierce intelligence who is also capable of conveying a palpable unguardedness, Stewart inhabits Maureen with both virtuosity and complete commitment. (Her performance in Clouds of Sils Maria earned her a César Award, the French equivalent of an Oscar; she was the first American actress to win the prize.) Even while engaged in an activity as ostensibly banal as texting, Stewart is mesmerizing.

  • The film is an eerie ghost story, taking place in a landscape of almost total spiritual flux. It's a mournful contemplation of grief and loss, mortality flickering on the periphery, and Maureen's attempts (mostly failed) to communicate with the dead gives her a desperate urgency. Nothing is stable in "Personal Shopper"—not jobs, relationships, gender, identity. “Personal Shopper” teeters gloriously in the gap of the perpetually "in-between."

  • The constellation of detailed moments creates the suspense and mystery of the film: Maureen experiences the presence of a ghost in her brother's house, later she hears an offhand comment about technology being a conduit for the spirit world, so when she receives a knowing text message from an unknown number it feels entirely plausible for her to reply, "Are you alive or dead?" Nothing is overplayed here, instead each development evenly unfolds, building upon what came before.

  • Assayas’ camera lets Stewart control the frame with her entire body and injecting even her text message conversations with personality, like her dubious punctuation. Assayas chooses to constantly reinvent the movie throughout from a fashion picture to a ghost story to a murder mystery. It keeps viewers on their toes, and at the center is Stewart who gives what is the best performance of her career to date in one of the best movies of the year.

  • ++

    Film Comment: Aliza Ma
    January 03, 2018 | January/February 2018 Issue (p. 44)

    Familiar themes of existential unease, techno-horror, and the follies of late capitalism are presented here with a minimalist touch, complemented by Stewart's phenomenal interior performance, and aided by subtle yet effective sound design and a light tincture of special effects. With equal parts playfulness and artfulness, Assayas uses remixed genre elements to fashion a phantasm: a galaxy-minded rumination on the struggle for meaning—of identity, art and spirituality—in the post-millennial era.

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