Friday, March 24, 2017

Flirting with the paranormal

Let’s see now. Kristen Stewart (aka Maureen) is an American in Paris working as a personal shopper in the film by the same name, directed by France’s Olivier Assayas (update from distributor: the film originally was to open March 24 but now is to open March 31 at the Birmingham 8 and Livonia 20) for a famed model/celebrity/star (Nora von Waldstätten), whom we – and she – hardly ever see. Maureen apparently needs the money even thought she detests the job, which keeps her from more interesting pursuits. Like being a medium? For Maureen seems to freelance in trying to detect the paranormal, and checks out a country estate where in fact she does make contact with a ghost who vomits ectoplasm, one of the more convincing apparitions I’ve seen on screen. And despite all the fringe benefits of her job (buying at chic Paris and London boutiques, travelling Eurostar first class, hanging around her employer’s opulent penthouse) she seems depressed and at sea, owing perhaps to her brother Lewis’s recent death (why? We don’t know), with whom she of course is trying to communicate. Meanwhile her boyfriend (Ty Olwin) is hundreds of miles away in Oman, a contract techie fortifying a foreign government’s computer security. Despite Maureen’s disdain of fashion, she has a yen to try on her employer’s recently bought clothes, which also is a sexual thrill. Meanwhile her iPhone has been breached by an unknown texter, who’s both friendly and frightening but who won’t reveal his identity and could be her brother. “I thought you wanted to be someone else,” he says of her almost transvestite behaviour. And, “I prefer you like this” when she’s in an armor-like shimmering dress. When he threateningly says he’s tracking her and is now on the apartment landing, Maureen looks out the peep hole and can’t see anything. After returning from Cartier with a high-priced necklace and earrings, Maureen makes an unsavory discovery. There’s no apparent motive or assailant though the police think it's her. Assayas (Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) – also starring Stewart – and Summer Hours (2008) – won best director at Cannes for this, which he also wrote. Really? This two-tract (the shopper and the spiritualist) film seems not to know where it’s going, with all sorts of unresolved dilemmas (Maureen’s job ambivalence, her unfulfilled psychic quest, and is Lewis haunting her?) that adds up to a ho hum story, the best aspects of which might be the street realism of Paris, London, and high-speed train travel between the two cities.

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