Personal Shopper

Dir Olivier Assayas, with Kristen Stewart

A faintly ludicrous yet mesmerising film whose strands are largely knitted together by Stewart’s performance as Maureen. It’s a sort of ghost story – grieving for her dead twin and waiting for a sign from him – where flesh and blood characters are also ghostly (the Skyped boyfriend, the employer who communicates by messages). There is a ghost, but who it is, what it wants and how long it will haunt Maureen is terrifyingly unclear. It’s also about a young woman’s sense of herself in the Paris fashion world, the long tail of grief, and a slasher movie. Lots of shots of doors ajar, but they offered ways for nastiness to enter rather than a way out.

The film drew me in despite its silliness. At one moment I was on the edge of my seat, and the next inwardly scoffing at the credulous way table-turning and mediums were “explained” by the characters. Hilma af Klint? Pah! What about Georgiana Houghton? Some elements had a random preposterousness: what 27-year-old is called Maureen nowadays? How do you get to live in France for so long and not speak French? (Its otherworldly flakiness was worthy of one of Ernie Wise’s plays; it recalled the story I wrote when I was 12 about the domestic life of an international tennis star.)  Other preposterousnesses seemed totally believable: the monster employer demanding that gorillas should do as they were told. One can believe anything about the fashion world!

The final scene – final words even – were haunting and ambiguous: “Is it me?” . . . Yes, I did shiver at times.

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