A potent drama masquerading as supernatural thriller. Or is it the other way around?
Olivier Assayas’ latest, 2016’s ‘Personal Shopper‘, re-teams him with ‘Clouds of Sils Maria’ star Kristen Stewart. A fantastic journey that tightropes between high-stakes murder mystery, supernatural thriller, and laid-bare character study. Continuous rewatchings won’t help you assemble the parts into a complete picture. That’s the frustrating beauty of it.
Maureen (Stewart) lives in Paris working as personal shopper to a celebrity brat. This “job” supports her other life as a spiritual medium searching for the supernatural. And she doesn’t have to search for long.
Soon she starts receiving intriguing, often salacious and entirely anonymous text messages. And as the story progresses and the threat level rises these texts take on a life of their own. Making an iPhone a support character is a fresh genre take.
Assayas acts more provocateur then spin artist. Unlike fellow auteur M. Night Shyamalan who gifts big “holy sh*t!” reveals right at the end, Assayas relishes in leaving things quite ambiguous.
In patiently assembled stages the thrills, drama, and shock build steadily and without explanation or definite resolution. If you aren’t questioning every single onscreen moment you weren’t paying close enough attention.
Between Stewart’s potent restraint, stylish old-school haunted house styled trickery, and a bathed in uncertainty narrative ‘Personal Shopper‘ delivers an effective mix of intrigue, scares, and drama.
Many won’t like the slow-burn build nor the unresolved (and confusing) ending. Yet, as a true fan(atic) of film I’ve come to appreciate the beauty in art for art’s sake and don’t often require, nor want, a perfectly tied bow on my cinematic gifts.