Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Personal Shopper

Director: Olivier Assayas
Country: Ranska/France, Saksa/Germany
Year: 2016
Duration: 1.45
Languages: en, fr, se
Original name: Personal Shopper
    Midnight Sun Film Festival, Sodankylä.
    MSFF, The School, DCP screened without subtitles, 16 June 2017

MSFF: "No two films are alike in the extensive oeuvre of Olivier Assayas, who visited Sodankylä a couple of years ago. A watershed moment might be seen in Clouds of Sils Maria (2014), which marked the beginning of his collaboration with Kristen Stewart, for whom Assayas wrote the eponymous role in his ghost story, Personal Shopper.

Maureen (Stewart), a young American, has settled into Paris, the hometown of her recently deceased twin brother, Lewis. Maureen’s life is stuck between the past and the present while she’s waiting for a final message from her brother in the afterlife. The wait, the promise of a death-transcending connection between the siblings, materializes in unexpected ways, bringing ever darker ripples into Maureen’s cold life as a servant for the fashion elite.

This ambiguous psychological study and intensely driven thriller is, at its purest, a celebration of discreet tracking shots. Stewart’s interpretation of the loneliness and fear of the human mind sets the pace for the story. The seamless collaboration between Assayas and the American star, grown from a tweener idol into a French director’s muse, was awarded the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival. (MM)

French director OLIVIER ASSAYAS (b. 1955), who visited our festival in 2014, started his career as a critic for Cahiers du Cinéma. His father worked as a screenwriter and an assistant to Max Ophuls. The versatile Assayas can pull off both sensitive personal drama and more action-based departures – such as the metafilm Irma Vep (1996), starring his ex-spouse Maggie Cheung. Evoking Ozu and Bergman, Summer Hours (2008) is a vision of the slow rundown of a French family during the era of globalization. In the terrorist portrait Carlos (2010), the radical ideals of youth begin to rift. Films screened at our festival also include the autobiographical Something in the Air (2012) and Clouds of Sils Maria (2014), a study of the relations between art and reality.
" (MSFF)

Directed by     Olivier Assayas
Produced by     Charles Gillibert
Written by     Olivier Assayas
Cinematography     Yorick Le Saux
Edited by     Marion Monnier
Production company: CG Cinéma
    Vortex Sutra
    Sirena Film
    Arte France Cinéma
    Arte Deutschland/WDR
Distributed by     Les Films du Losange
Release date     17 May 2016 (Cannes)
    14 December 2016 (France)
Running time     110 minutes
Country     France
Language     English
    Kristen Stewart as Maureen Cartwright
    Lars Eidinger as Ingo
    Nora von Waldstätten as Kyra
    Anders Danielsen Lie as Erwin
    Sigrid Bouaziz as Lara
    Ty Olwin as Gary
    Audrey Bonnet as Cassandre
    Pascal Rambert as Jerome
    Hammou Graia as Police Officer
    Benjamin Biolay as Victor Hugo
"Maureen is a personal shopper in Paris for Kyra, a celebrity. She travels to European capitals to shop for her, buying clothes, accessories and jewels. Her twin brother Lewis recently died from a heart attack; they shared the same genetic heart problem. They were both interested in spiritism and believed they had connections to the spirit world."

"In the opening scene, Maureen stays overnight at her late brother's mansion, hoping for a sign from him from the other side. His girlfriend, Lara, wants to sell the mansion and the buyers want Maureen to find out if the mansion is free from evil spirits. During her discussion with the potential buyers, Maureen discovers the artist Hilma af Klint whose paintings were inspired by messages from the spirit world. The film suggests that what she sees and reacts to, including a series of texts she receives with references to her personal information "Unknown", might be other-worldly. She believes she is in touch with ghosts.


"Maureen, une jeune américaine à Paris, s’occupe de la garde-robe d’une célébrité."

"C’est un travail qu’elle n’aime pas mais elle n’a pas trouvé mieux pour payer son séjour et attendre que se manifeste l’esprit de Lewis, son frère jumeau récemment disparu."

"Elle se met alors à recevoir sur son portable d’étranges messages anonymes… "

AA: I have been impressed by the mature period of Olivier Assayas, especially by L'Heure d'été / Summer Hours (2008), Carlos (2010), and Après mai / Something in the Air (2012).

The same level of confidence and sophistication is also evident in the Kristen Stewart films Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) and Personal Shopper (2016), but they also seem a step back from the wide social implications of the three great films that preceded them.

As in Clouds of Sils Maria Kristin Stewart also here plays an assistant to a great star. There is an air of frustration in her situation.

There is also a relentless nervous tension in the performance without a single relaxed moment. As a film of anxiety and horror Personal Shopper can be compared with Persona (Bergman) and Repulsion (Polanski). As a ghost story it belongs to the Henry James tradition; visually, it has affinities with Japanese ghost horror movies.

Intriguing cultural references include:
- Hilma af Klint, spiritist and pioneer of abstract art
- Victor Hugo as a spiritist: there is a delightful fake 1960s tv drama on him here
- Hildegard von Bingen
- "Das Hobellied" sung by Marlene Dietrich

I admire Personal Shopper as a brilliant exercise in style but find it wanting in substance.

An eloquent visual quality in the DCP projection.

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