As I have spent the first four days of the festival with Tom Hanks in Florence (OK, working on press for Inferno), Personal Shopper was my first foray into the LFF 2016 and what a way to start. Olivier Assayas has crafted a strange, spooky and genuinely scary film that, despite the story being quite unbelievable at every turn still manages to captivate for it’s entire running time (1hr 45 minutes if you are interested). This owes in no small part a huge debt to the lead, a frankly incredible Kristen Stewart who delivers a stunning performance, simultaneously blank and despondent whilst bristling and electrifying. It’s a powerhouse of a role and I fell in love with her more than a little bit. Stewart’s best role to date (although I haven’t see Certain Women yet - it's great, she's great - Si).
Stewart plays Maureen, an American twenty something personal shopper living in Paris. Maureen works for Kyra, a German supermodel who is utterly vacuous and horrid. Maureen is never allowed to try on the beautiful clothes she collects for Maureen, except when she does it illicitly, egged on by a somewhat voyeuristic male worker and then again by a female worker in Paris. Her job involves going to Vogue, various fashion houses and collecting beautiful items of clothing then begging Kyra to not keep them. There is a darker twist to Maureen’s life though. She is also dabbling in being a medium in an attempt to contact her twin brother Lewis who died 6 months earlier. Lewis was a medium and the twins made a pact that if one of them died the other would try make contact. There are some spectacularly spooky scenes of Maureen roaming around the house that Lewis died in, trying and succeeding to make contact with the spirit there. But is it Lewis or something darker?
Maureen also starts to receive increasingly intrusive and threatening mysterious texts luring her to a hotel room in the city and also pushing her towards doing things which are forbidden, where she begins to realise that it is the forbidden that she is wants.
As aforementioned so much of the plot in a less enticing film with a less electrifying lead actor would have made me walk out laughing halfway through but somehow Assayas and Stewart make it all work.
Exciting youthful, daring and in your face, see it if you can, it’ll certainly give you something to talk about.