Review by Gordon Justesen
Stewart, Lars Eidinger, Sigrid Bouaziz, Anders Danielsen Lie, Ty Olwin, Hammou
Graia, Nora Von Waldstatten, Benjamin Biolay, Audrey Bonnet, Pascal Rambert
Director: Olivier Assayas
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Features: See Review
Length: 105 Minutes
Release Date: October 24, 2017
“Lewis, is it you?...Or is it just me?”
On paper, the balancing act on display in writer/director Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper shouldn’t really work, as it shifts between mood and tone quite frequently. And yet somehow, everything meshes together well in mesmerizing fashion. The result is a most unique film experience that will leave you haunted long after you first experience it.
Right from the opening frame, we are drawn into the world of the lead character, Maureen (Kristen Stewart). She is an American currently residing in Paris for two specific reasons. The first being her job, which is that of a personal shopper/assistant to Kyra (Nora Von Wadstatten), who is something of a high profile fashion model. The second is because her twin brother recently died there and she is trying to connect with him in the afterlife.
It turns out that Maureen is a medium. She had made a promise to her brother that in the event of his or her death, the other would attempt to communicate somehow. With the brother dying from a heart condition that she also has, Maureen can’t help but be determine to honor the pact she made.
And indeed, her first several attempts to make contact have produced little to some effect, or so she thinks. But things start to really take a toll on her psychological state when she engages in a conversation with an anyonomous texter. Whether or not it could be her brother contacting her, Maureen goes along with this string of very personal back and forths as it allows her to break free of her boring professional life and break a number of rules in the process.
Kristen Stewart shares quite a bit in common with her Twilight co-star, Robert Pattinson. Both had previously been actors that I didn’t care for whatsoever as they were mostly known for bringing little to no life to characters in a franchise that I wish never existed. However, since the end of vampire love saga, Pattinson has showcased a tremendous range and scored powerhouse performances in films such as The Rover and this year’s Good Time.
The same can now be said of Ms. Stewart, who is absolutely astonishing here, which is a vast compliment since she occupies about 98% of the film’s running time. She provides a bold presence in her every scene, and we buy her disillusioned state since she is less concerned with the goings on in her real life and much more involved with her pursuit of the afterlife. Based on her stunning work here, I am most tempted to discover her equally praised work in director Assayas’ The Clouds of Sils Maria.
Speaking of Assayas, who also directed the astounding epic mini-series Carlos, he stages many scenes of quiet tension so incredibly well. The many scenes with Maureen alone in a darkened house trying to make contact with her brother build quite an eerie mood. And there’s a key sequence late in the film where something occurs in the background behind her that is sure to make your skin crawl.
Personal Shopper is certainly a different breed of supernatural horror/stalker thriller/murder mystery. As I hinted at earlier, those genres mixed in with a brief look at the life a fashion assistant shouldn’t go together well on paper but,thanks to purely bold filmmaking from Olivier Assayas and a remarkable piece of acting from Kristen Stewart, this makes for one of the most uniquely effective films you will experience this or any other year!
Criterion knocks yet another fantastic Blu-ray presentation out of the park with this release! Director Assayas, who approved the film’s 2k digital transfer, delivers a potent visual style here, which plays off wonderfully in the 1080p. Paris looks stunningly authentic, and both daytime and nighttime sequences appear in superb, tremendous form.
The DTS 5.1 mix is especially effective in the film’s quieter moments, such as the aforementioned scenes with Stewart alone in a darkened house trying to make contact. There’s barely any music in the film, but the sound performance manages to achieve enough of a potent effect without it. Dialogue delivery is handled with top notch quality, as well!
Included on this Criterion Blu-ray is a twenty minute interview with writer/director Olivier Assayas, as well as a forty five minute segment from a press conference at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival (featuring Assayas, Kristen Stewart and various cast and crew members) and a Trailer.
Personal Shopper is easily one of this year’s biggest surprises! In addition to it’s flawless tone balancing act, it also provides one of the stronger and believable depictions of how one grieves and what that does to someone’s emotional and psychological state. It’s a highly effective piece of cinematic art!