Personal Shopper (2016)

  • Time: 105 min
  • Genre: Drama | Mystery | Thriller
  • Director: Olivier Assayas
  • Cast: Kristen Stewart, Lars Eidinger, Nora von Waldstätten


Revolves around a ghost story that takes place in the fashion underworld of Paris.


  • It takes a certain audacity to have the first ten or so minutes of one’s film comprised of little more than a young woman roaming an empty house and waiting and waiting and waiting. Who is she and what exactly is she waiting for?

    As is writer-director Olivier Assayas’ wont, the clues are parceled out sparingly and sometimes ambiguously. What we know is this: she is Maureen (Kristen Stewart) and she is waiting for a sign. It’s been three months since her twin brother, Lewis, died of a heart condition which she also possesses. As they both had abilities to connect with the spirit world, they had made a pact that, if ever one of them died, they would find a way to make contact from beyond the grave. And so Maureen waits…

    She doesn’t wait for very long as she encounters a presence her first night in the house. And yet, the presence was keeping a distance, she tells her brother’s girlfriend Lara (Sigrid Bouaziz), so she wasn’t quite sure if it was Lewis. Maureen is determined to see things through, which entails remaining in Paris and continuing her job as a personal shopper and assistant for a highly demanding and self-centred celebrity named Kyra (Nora van Waldstätten). So Assayas tracks Maureen as she rides her scooter to various ateliers and shops to assess the designer clothes and accessories to bring over to Kyra’s apartment.

    Maureen’s mission is never far from her mind as she pores over videos of abstract painter Hilma af Klimt and novelist Victor Hugo, both of whom believed in the supernatural. Just when Assayas lulls one into believing that the ghost story has been shunted to the periphery, several incidents occur that are shocks to the system. One is another, more malevolent encounter with the presence, another is a murder, and, more terrifyingly, a third is a series of texts from an unknown sender that begins, “I know you.”

    Assayas mines a great deal of suspense from the more obvious elements of the ghost story. Maureen’s wanderings through the house are almost too protracted, but the dread builds slowly but surely and, though the weaker-hearted may try to keep their gaze focused on Maureen, the eyes can’t help but stray to the dark corners. Similarly, the mysterious texts generate a surprising depth of unease, and even a stabbing “It’s coming from inside the house” feeling as a backlog of texts ramp up the threat level.

    Yet, as its final image and line make clear, Personal Shopper is about Maureen’s unraveling. In this respect, Personal Shopper is Assayas’ take on Roman Polanski’s Repulsion with nods to Belle du Jour and Single White Female. Is Maureen genuinely witnessing a presence or is it a manifestation of her own fear of death and the unknown? Or, to a lesser but more immediate degree, is it distress at losing herself or being wholly unsure of who she is without Lewis? Identity is one strand of Assayas’ narrative and is encapsulated in a startling scene that finds Maureen trying on Kyra’s clothes and masturbating on her bed – is she masking her compulsions by perhaps believing it was the presence that compelled her to do this? Assayas keeps avoids concrete answers, preferring to maintain the obliqueness of the narrative.

    In her second film for Assayas, Stewart follows up her César-winning role in his Clouds of Sils Maria with an equally magnetic performance that includes beautiful and sometimes unexpected displays of emotion, such as the scene where tries in vain to stop the onslaught of tears that overcome her during a train ride.

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  • “For me, Lewis was someone deeply intuitive of others.
    He understood things that went unspoken.
    Maybe because he knew he was going to die.”

    Are you suffering from a sleep disorder lately so you always get up with giant bags under your eyes? Or are you hyperkinetic due to an overdose of cola during a night of “binge watching”? No problem. Simply start the movie “Personal shopper” and these problems have been solved without any doubt. If there would be a Oscar category called “Most boring film of the year“, this film would have won it easily. In short: The whole movie you’ll see Maureen (Kristen Stewart) do some shopping for a high-society model named Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten), driving around in Paris on her moped, meditate while smoking lots of cigarettes and sending a whole series of messages on her iPhone. And she’s also waiting for a sign of life (how ambiguous) of her recently deceased brother Lewis. Apart from some ectoplasm and flickering light phenomena, there’s nothing ghostly to see. A sleep-inducing performance. And even the few scenes in which Stewart walks around half-naked and even masturbates, won’t help. Her cup size is of the same caliber as this film. Meagre.

    Maybe I’m a bit biased, because I’m immensily annoyed by the person Kristen Stewart. On the other hand. You need a film character who doesn’t feel good about herself and who’s constantly in a melancholic mood, she’s surely the right candidate. If there’s an actress you can admire a whole movie without showing one sincere smile and a face that seems to be dipped in starch, then she’s definitely the one. I still remember this quote : “Kristen Stewart is like my refrigerator, no matter what I put in it (milk, soda, eggs, vegetables, meat), it’s always a refrigerator. And so is she“. I really can’t understand why she’s being praised by everybody. And every time I read about her, superlatives like “authenticity” and “subtle” are being used. Well, you can also say that about the Scarlett Johanssons, Saoirse Ronans, Dakota Fanningsen and even the Jennifer Lawrences in Hollywood. The only difference is that these actresses show some variation in their facial expressions.

    “Personal Shopper” is once again an arthouse creation. And the artificial world of fashion fits extremely well with it. Both the film and the world of fashion have the same irritating effect on me. They create an artificial product that is reasonably pretentious and targets the group of the happy few. The arthouse film lovers are those happy few who are able to see the abstract meaning and the symbolisme behind such an intellectual film. In the fashion world, the happy few are those who can afford an exclusive sewn together piece of confection. And after a certain time they’ll loudly proclaim that this expensive piece of cloth is out of fashion. By the way. Who can explain to me the usefulness of such a wire-shaped corset that Maureen wears at a certain moment? The connoisseurs will most likely scream bloody murder and call me a retard who doesn’t understand fashion. I hope for myself that that it’ll remain like that.

    Which subject this film tries to tackle, is not so easy to interpret. On the one hand there’s the spiritual issue and the connection of the living with wandering souls. On the other hand there is the subject of materialistic thinking and the impersonal world in which we live. The primordial conversation between Maureen and the unknown (the bouncing dots and plopping sounds really started to get on my nerves after a while) is also a reference to the contemporary impersonal conversations among individuals. So how to interprete this movie? I guess you could explain it in many ways. Best you fill in the gaps yourself after watching this movie. Keep in mind that Maureen waits for the unknown person in a hotel room and shortly thereafter you’ll see doors open automatically without seeing anybody. That puts the whole in a completely different perspective. Or not? If not, then I think that the very last bang is a clear statement. But you had need endurance to sit out this long ride and witness this slightly intense moment. Ending with Maureen looking straight at the camera. Emotionless. Trust me. Me and Kirsten Stewart. That’ll never work out.

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