Directed by Olivier Assayas, Personal Shopper (2016) is a supernatural mystery now in U.S. release. Kristen Stewart stars as Maureen, an American expatriate in Paris. She recently lost her twin brother to a heart ailment she inherited as well. They made a pact that whoever died first would attempt to contact the other. Maureen is a self-described medium but hasn’t been able to make contact.
Assayas directed Stewart in Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) where she was part of an ensemble. In that film, she was the personal assistant of a famous actress played by Juliette Binoche. This time, Stewart’s the lead but again plays the assistant to a famous woman named Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten). Ingo, a German who works for Men’s Vogue is also part of Kyra’s circle. He’s played by Lars Eidinger, another Sils Maria holdover.
Cinematographer Yorick Le Saux worked with Assayas on Sils Maria, Boarding Gate (2007) and Carlos (2010) as well as with François Ozon [Swimming Pool (2003)]. Editor Marion Monnier also worked on Sils Maria and Carlos.
With a distinctive visual style, Personal Shopper shifts between moody interior scenes to a faster clip as Maureen races around Paris on her motorbike. Her job is her entrée to the world or glamor but through the back door. She impulsively tries on her bosses designer clothes clandestinely.
There’s a contrast made between the superficial fashion world of the city and her deceased brother’s house in the country. There’s a spirit trapped there, perhaps symbolic of her grief.
Back in Paris, Maureen comes upon a grisly crime scene. She’s questioned by a suspicious cop (Hammou Graïa) at headquarters but released. When someone later begins texting her anonymously, it’s a mystery who or what’s behind it. Is her brother finally communicating from the other side? Or, is it someone very much alive who thinks she’s seen too much?