In Olivier Assayas’ formidable film, PERSONAL SHOPPER, mourning becomes electric.
Genuinely eerie, PERSONAL SHOPPER is a ghost story but not in the contemporary chintzy, clutzy, gormless gory CGI scaremongering generic of hackneyed haunting.
No cheap thrills here, just a film with the gift of enigmatic clarity. There’s a piercing sadness and melancholy beauty in Olivier Assayas beautifully chilling essay on grief.
Kristen Stewart excels here, exquisitely transcending those vapid vampires that boosted her career. PERSONAL SHOPPER is not festooned with phantoms of fear, but rather, spectres of loss, mirroring the missing piece, the void left in the bereaved.
Stewart plays Maureen who works as a personal shopper for a filthy rich businesswoman based in Paris. Maureen’s twin brother has died and she hovers in France waiting for a sign that he has entered an afterlife.
Maureen is marooned in a twilight zone of the corporal and the spiritual, fervently wanting her fraternal faith in an afterlife proved.
Assayas uses old fashioned atmosphere to build up a sublimely unsettling film. Audio cues are just as important as the visual. Wrapping on doors and windows create apparition of wraiths in one’s imagination, the whistling wind, creaking floorboards, fuelling the unseen.
As the film generates tension with this utterly uncanny atmosphere, Maureen begins to get text messages from an unknown caller who seems to know a lot about her and suggests a meeting.
And then there’s a murder.
From spooky country estates to Maureen scootering around Paris streets, and a visit to London at the behest of her employer, PERSONAL SHOPPER is always stupendously, visually arresting.
Like the early 20th century artist, Hilma af Klint who is invoked in the film, Assayas seems to be trying to grasp undiscovered dimensions beyond tangible reality. Along with other pioneers of abstraction, Klint shared a fascination for the occult and the spiritual dimensions of art, all of which is manifested and mirrored in Assayas’ powerful and enigmatic compositions.
Assayas also essays fellow film-makers, most obviously Hitchcock, in open and original homage.
Ethereal, mesmerising, hauntingly good and personally shocking, say yes to Olivier Assayas and put PERSONAL SHOPPER on your must see shopping list.