Tuesday, May 15, 2018

2018 Cannes Marathon: Personal Shopper

(Co-Winner of the Best Director Prize to Olivier Assayas (w/ Cristian Mungui for Graduation) at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival)

Written and directed by Olivier Assayas, Personal Shopper is the story of an American woman living in Paris where she works as a shopper for a celebrity as she copes with the loss of her twin brother as she believes his spirit is around her. The film explores a woman dealing with loss as she becomes entranced by her surroundings as well as the world of the supernatural. Starring Kristen Stewart, Lars Eidinger, Sigrid Bouaziz, Anders Danielsen Lie, Ty Olwin, Hammou Graia, Nora von Waldstatten, Benjamin Biolay, Audrey Bonnet, and Pascal Rambert. Personal Shopper is an eerie and mesmerizing film from Olivier Assayas.

The film follows an American woman who works as a personal shopper for a major celebrity as she also tries to reach out to the spirit of her recently-deceased twin brother where she later gets mysterious messages and such. It’s a film that plays into a woman who had been a medium with spirits is trying to make contact with her brother who had died in France as she also deals with the demanding job of shopping for this egotistical celebrity. Olivier Assayas’ screenplay follows the world that Maureen Cartwright (Kristen Stewart) who would live and work in Paris as she wants to find answers about her brother’s death where she turns to her brother’s former girlfriend Lara (Sigrid Bouaziz) for help as Maureen would briefly stay at her brother’s home to try and contact his spirit.

Yet, she would encounter something strange as it would eventually interfere with her work to shop for this esteemed yet egotistical celebrity in Kyra (Nora von Waldstatten) who is about to attend a fashion show in Milan as Maureen has to collect various clothes by prestigious designers and jewelry in Paris and London. During this time, Maureen copes with her loneliness and loss as well as wondering if her brother’s spirit is lurking around her or is someone playing with her. It all raises question into Maureen’s search about the idea of the afterlife as she seeks answers from all sorts of things including the artwork of Hilma af Klint to a film about Victor Hugo’s fascination with the afterlife.

Assayas’ direction does bear bits of style in some of the compositions as well as scenes involving the supernatural that Maureen would encounter. Much of the film is shot in a simplistic approach to play into Maureen’s encounter with spirits as Assayas emphasizes on close-ups and medium shots to play into Maureen’s sense of loss and bewilderment. Shot largely in Paris with additional shooting in London and Oman with the latter being the film’s finale relating to Maureen’s spiritual journey. Assayas uses Paris as a place where this collision of high fashion and spiritualism occurs in Maureen’s world as there are some wide shots in the film though Assayas avoids many of the city’s famed landmarks. Much of Assayas’ compositions are shot with hand-held cameras though they’re carefully controlled to play into the drama without the need to shake the camera for something suspenseful. Even through the text messages that Maureen would receive as it add to the mystery of her journey as well as this sense of longing in a scene where she tries on clothes she bought for Kyra. Assayas’ direction would play into the idea of spirits lurking around as he remains ambiguous right to the end about what Maureen has encountered and whether it is real or her own imagination. Overall, Assayas crafts a haunting yet gripping film about a young woman’s need to connect with the spirit of her late twin brother.

Cinematographer Yorick Le Saux does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it emphasizes on low-key, greyish colors for much of the film with few bits of color in a few scenes as it really plays into the sense of loss that Maureen is dealing with. Editor Marion Monnier does brilliant work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts and transitional fade-outs to play into the drama and some of the film’s suspenseful moments. Production designer Francois-Renaud Lebarthe and set decorator Martin Kurel do fantastic work with the look of the home Maureen’s brother was living in as well as her own apartment and the lavish apartment that Kyra lives at. Costume designer Jurgen Doering does nice work with the costumes as it is largely casual for the clothes that Maureen and her friends wear while the designer clothing from Chanel and other designers are definitely gorgeous.

Hairstylist Morgane Bernhard and makeup artist Thi Thanh Tu Nguyen do terrific work with the look of Maureen as it’s simpler in comparison to the more glamorous Kyra who always has to look great. Visual effects supervisors Anthony Lestremau and Jeremy Maillard do amazing work with the visual effects as it is largely minimal for the look of a spiritual being in a key sequence and other smaller moments in the film. The sound work of Nicolas Cantin, Olivier Goinard, and Nicolas Moreau do superb work with the sound as it play into some of the locations that Maureen goes to as well as some of the film’s mysterious moments as it relates to the spirits. The film’s music soundtrack mainly consists of a mixture of classical and ambient pieces by Jordi Savall with Hesperion Xx and Andrew Lawrence-King along with cuts by Anna Von Hausswolff, Guillermo Portables, and Marlene Dietrich.

The casting by Antoinette Boulat is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Benjamin Biolay as an actor playing Victor Hugo in a film, Pascal Rambert and Audrey Bonnet as a couple of Lara’s friends who are also mediums, Ty Olwin as Maureen’s friend Gary who is in Oman studying, Anders Danielsen Lie as a friend of Lewis named Erwin, and Nora von Waldstatten as the egotistical celebrity Kyra. Sigrid Bouaziz is fantastic as Lewis’ girlfriend Lara who wants some answers as she helps Maureen out in contacting a medium. Lars Eidinger is excellent as Ingo as Kyra’s lover that Maureen meets early in the film as he is a mysterious figure that Maureen becomes uncomfortable with. Finally, there’s Kristen Stewart in a phenomenal performance as Maureen Cartwright as a young woman who works as a personal shopper for a major celebrity as she is also a medium that is trying to contact her recently-deceased twin brother as it’s a restrained and somber performance from Stewart that showcases a woman dealing with loss as well as uncertainty into what she is encountering as it is a career-defining performance from Stewart.

Personal Shopper is a sensational film from Olivier Assayas that features a great performance from Kristen Stewart. Along with its ensemble cast, low-key direction, and a chilling story of loss and the need to find life after death, it’s an unconventional suspense-drama that play into a woman’s need for answers as well as juggling the world of high fashion as she tries to find herself. In the end, Personal Shopper is a spectacular film from Olivier Assayas.

Olivier Assayas Films: (Disorder) – (Winter’s Child) – (Paris Awakens) – (A New Life) – (Cold Water) – (Irma Vep) – (Late August, Early September) – (Sentimental Destinies) – (Demonlover) – Clean (2004 film) - (Boarding Gate) – Summer Hours - Carlos - (Something in the Air) – Clouds of Sils Maria

© thevoid99 2018


Brittani Burnham said...

I liked this too, it was such a unique story and Kristen was awesome as always.

Anonymous said...

This one really got to me. There was a lot going on.

Often Off Topic said...

I didn't expect much from this one but I really enjoyed it too. Kristen Stewart gets a lot of stick that she doesn't deserve!

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-Yeah, I wish people give Kristen Stewart more roles like this as she is a lot better than people give her credit for.

@assholeswatchingmovies.com-This was a really good film. I could see why people didn't like it but I thought it was awesome in terms of its exploration of death and the wonderment over the afterlife.

@Allie Adkins-It's those Twilight movies. Sure, it made Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and several others money and probably gave them a career but many of that least prove they do have acting chops and more to offer. Then there's Taylor Lautner. All pearly-whites, buffed-up abs, and all of that shit yet offers nothing of substance.

Chris said...

To me, it was kind of a b-side to Assayas' Clouds of Sils Maria(another film about a personal assistant which I liked). I was bored by the lack of story and switched off Personal Shopper. I have the feeling if my mood was different and I gave it another shot, I could appreciate the film for what it goes for.

thevoid99 said...

@Chris-I prefer Clouds of Sils Maria as well yet I enjoyed this as I found it as an interesting study of a woman coping with grief. I don't think it was meant to be conventional but it was still interesting. I hope you give it another shot. If it doesn't work, that's OK.

Alex Withrow said...

Great review. I've only seen this once, more than a year ago, and I've never been able to get it out of my mind. Loved it, and need to see it again.

thevoid99 said...

@Alex-I hope to get the Criterion DVD to that film as well as the other films of Assayas that I've seen so far. I really liked it a lot and I think Kristen Stewart will have a great future if she does more films like this.