Cannes 2016: Kristen Stewart and Olivier Assayas reunite for a stylish but awkward fusion
The latest collaboration between Clouds of Sils Maria director Olivier Assayas and that film’s César-winning star Kristen Stewart is an awkward fusion of ghost story, celebrity culture satire and half-baked Brian De Palma-style thriller. There are enough intriguing elements to keep it watchable but it never manages to gel into a coherent whole.
Stewart is Maureen, an American in Paris struggling to come to terms with the death of her twin brother Lewis. The siblings had a pact that whoever died first would send the other a sign to prove that there was an afterlife. There are genuine attempts to embrace the traditions of a scary movie: Maureen spends the night in the old dark house that belonged to her brother, investigates the spiritualist leanings of abstract painter Hilma af Klint and novelist Victor Hugo, and finds herself visited by ectoplasm-spewing poltergeists.
These features are balanced by more existential musings on what lies beyond the grave and the credibility of spiritualist claims – all of which is compelling and mysterious but Assayas heads off the rails when he attempts to shoehorn way too many other elements into the story. We also spend time following Maureen on her day job among the haute couture houses and Cartiers of Paris, choosing items for her demanding celebrity boss Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten). Perhaps part of Maureen even wishes she was Kyra and that is what leads to the De Palma-inspired secret stalker, who acts like a refugee from Scream and urges Maureen to give in to her secret desires. Unfortunately, their cat and mouse games are played out in exchanges of text messages, which makes for deadly dull cinema.
In some respects, Personal Shopper is rather stylish, with hints of Polanski and even Kieslowski in the execution, and Stewart’s nervy, edgy performance nearly manages to keep everything on track. Almost but not quite is the final verdict.
Screening as part of Cannes 2016. General release TBC.