Personal Shopper (2016, Olivier Assayas)

Watched this twice… it doesn’t quite make sense, and a half hour of screen time is spent watching Kristen Stewart texting, but it’s just about the most electrifying thing I’ve seen in theaters lately.

Kristen spends the night in her late brother’s old house, and sees a ghost, but it’s not him. Dropping off clothes for her employer Kyra (Austrian Nora von Waldst├Ątten of Carlos) she runs into Lars Eidinger (Clouds of Sils Maria), tells him she’s not sure she believes in an afterlife (though we just saw her see a ghost). Soon after this, an unknown number starts texting Kristen asking personal questions, and she is intrigued enough to keep responding as she travels from Paris to London and back.

Things get crazy… we see Kristen drop some bags with super-expensive, high-fashion jewelry in Kyra’s apartment just before discovering Kyra dead and seeing shadows move in back of the apartment with rhythmic sounds, then leave without the bags. She returns to call the cops, which we mostly don’t see – then later, the jewelry bags are at her own place. Unknown Caller (everyone has guessed that it’s Lars at this point) drops off a hotel room key, and she goes to the room in Kyra’s dress with the bags… then he arrives… then the camera tracks an unknown presence leaving… then he leaves and has a shootout with waiting police.

Anyway, Kristen meets Erwin (Anders Danielsen Lie, star of a couple Joachim Trier films), the new boyfriend of the late brother’s ex Lara (Sigrid Bouaziz, a small role in Eden), and we get a glimpse of the brother’s ghost. Then Kristen, who has been avoiding her boyfriend Gary, decides to join him in Oman, where she encounters… something… herself. “I don’t know you.”

If she was killed in the hotel room (as the departing spirit would suggest), what’s she doing meeting new people (Erwin) and having normal conversations and going on trips? But if she didn’t, then what happened in the room, and why does she never mention it? I suppose we know that ghosts can become visible and pick up glasses, so maybe they can masquerade as their sisters and carry bags of jewelry across the city… but no, that doesn’t make sense either. Anyway, this unknowability of the story, the lapses in logic and storytelling, only add to the movie’s great mixture of the mundane and the mysterious which has kept me thinking about it all month.

Tied with Mungiu’s Graduation for best director at Cannes last year. DP Yorick Le Saux is on a roll, with this film following A Bigger Splash, Clouds of Sils Maria and Only Lovers Left Alive. I read a bunch of articles which I won’t quote from… David Ehrlich’s family grief essay/interview was a favorite personal take, and V. Rizov’s “Anxiety of Economic Influence” article approaches the movie from a fascinating angle.

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