Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, 2016)

personal shopper

For a film as surprisingly dense and multi-faceted as Personal Shopper, it is first important to consider exactly what comprises the work. It is at once a subtle exploration of grief and a glimpse into the unknown, a thriller at times bordering on horror and a relentlessly lowkey experience that borders on parodying the cliches of a normal viewer’s notion of a French arthouse film, and a movie that both embraces and rejects what ultimately becomes the film’s driving principle: spiritualism. Yet it manages to reconcile these differences to some degree or another, and the credit must be given to two incredibly well-matched collaborators: director and writer Olivier Assayas and his new muse Kristen Stewart.

It should be noted that this is Assayas’s second film with Stewart, following his previous film Clouds of Sils Maria (2014). There, Stewart played the assistant and essential foil to Juliette Binoche’s veteran actress, but in this movie she stands alone, quite literally by herself for much of the narrative. Her character is Maureen, a personal shopper living in Paris for a diva model named Kyra who is often heard (through handwritten notes) but only seen in one short sequence. Maureen is also an amateur medium, introduced in the opening minutes wandering the home of her recently deceased twin brother in the hopes of receiving a sign from the other side.

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Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas, 2014)


The latest from French director Olivier Assayas finally makes its way to Seattle screens this week, opening at Landmark’s Seven Gables Theatre. It stars Juliette Binoche as a very Binochian actress, highly accomplished in both the commercial and artier realms of her trade, as she reluctantly takes on a role in a play by the writer who gave her her big break at age 18. The play is about the toxic relationship between an older businesswoman and her ambitious young intern, and Binoche, having played the young half 20 years earlier, is now asked to take on the older part, a character whose weakness she despises. Kristen Stewart plays Binoche’s assistant, young and plugged into the world, who encourages Binoche to see the play and its characters in a new light. The bulk of the film follows their discussions as they practice lines in the picturesque Swiss Alps, and their relationship draws some expected parallels and unexpected divergences from the play itself.

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