“PERSONAL SHOPPER” at the Cannes Festival

“Personal Shopper” by Olivier Assayas is a movie about ghosts, the ghost that Maureen (played by Kristen Stewart) works for as personal shopper and that of her dead brother Lewis, whom she is trying to reconnect with.

Kyra Gellman (Nora von Waldstätten) is an international socialite who needs her wardrobe constantly augmented, so she hired Maureen to regularly visit the best clothiers and jewelers from Paris to London. Except that, we never see Kyra the Ghost, and maybe this doesn’t matter so much to the film. And it’s just as well that Kyra is never around because Maureen needs time to pursue her own agenda. To find the ghost of her brother Lewis.

She’s let inside an old and creaky manor by her brother’s former roommate. She goes from room to room, listening for the slightest hint that a spirit may be inside. And if so, is it that of her dead brother Lewis? Maureen will make new encounters, some real, some virtual through the insistent text messages from a stranger which she receives on her white iPhone6Plus. Assayas gives us unprecedented access to another human being’s iPhone, a plus. Maureen feverishly clicks replies back to the stranger (is it a ghost? Is it Kyra’s boyfriend whom she met briefly while at her boss’s apartment? Who is it?) as the enigmatic “Shopper” advances toward nowhere. There are two interesting references in the film, one to the seances held by Victor Hugo when he would go vacation in Jersey (England). The other to Hilma Af Klimt, an abstract artist who would paint after going in a trance and connecting with spirits.

The otherworldly suspense of “personal shopper” and Stewart’s acting as the diffident Maureen make this film, for a while, watchable. But the lack of a final payoff is a disappointment. 

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