Personal Shopper was a big festival hit last year with it’s director Olivier Assayas taking home the best director award at Cannes (he shared it with the director of Graduation). It also was shown at the London film festival which is when I first saw it. It marks the second collaboration between Assayas and it’s star Kirsten Stewart after Clouds of Sils Maria which was met with near universal acclaim.
The film is set in the world of high fashion but Stewart’s character Maureen does one of the less glamorous jobs in that realm that of being a personal shopper to a famous model who is a “Grade A Cunt”. Maureen’s brother has recently passed away due to a heart problem; which she shares with him along with an interest in the spirit world and both believe they can access the world so she is waiting for him to contact her. Things soon become complicated when she begins getting text messages from an unknown source and soon there is a murder. She also wears the clothes she gets for client which is something she is forbidden to do and that ends up being important in the narrative
Kirsten Stewart not unlike her former boyfriend and Twilight co-star has been dismantling the image she had from Twilight from coming out as “so gay” to choosing to more risky roles. Personal Shopper really hinges on her performance because she is on-screen in almost every frame of the film. She perfectly balances the blankness she is known for with real emotional power when Assayas commands it of her.
The film plays around genre in a refreshing way that’s partly down to Assayas’ unabashed love for genre filmmaking. He was a critic for Cahiers du cinéma in the ’80s and one of his more widely available pieces was one he wrote on John Carpenter’s The Fog. I also felt an influence of early horror auteur producer Val Lewton whose work was about more implied form of the supernatural than showing it on-screen which is something Personal Shopper shares.
Personal Shopper is a film which won’t leave you anytime soon. It’s got a remarkable performance by Stewart and also asks questions very few films do about the possibilities of the afterlife, what comes with fame and also in a more subtle way about the way we communicate through technology. The disc is fairly barebones but it does include the theatrical trailer.