Friday, October 20, 2017

Blu-ray/DVDebut for Olivier Assayas' genre-jumping jumble, PERSONAL SHOPPER

Yes, Kristen Stewart is always an interesting actress to watch, and after putting her through the paces -- and then some -- while helping her win a first-ever César award for an American actress via his remarkable Clouds of Sils Maria, French filmmaker Olivier Assayas (shown below) has collaborated again with Ms Stewart on a movie that, while never uninteresting, unfortunately never comes together in any genuinely meaningful way.

Instead, PERSONAL SHOPPER offers so much genre jumping -- from ghost story to murder mystery to fashion-plate parade to technology thriller to identity crisis to (no? yes!) a look at the French real estate market -- that by the time this film has come to its dead-halt finale, and the would-be ghost has answered the all-important question via a certain number of knocks, if you have not already given up in frustration or nodded off to dreamland, you're likely moan aloud, as I did, "Yeah, I figured as much. But so fucking what?!"

Now, M. Assayas has genre-jumped previously. Demonlover, in fact, is one of his most remarkable, ugly and joyous treasures. But here, as writer (of screenplay and dialog) as well as the director, he is working primarily in the English language, as he did in Clean and Boarding Gate, two of his least successful films. And he simply does not possess a gift for this. His dialog is too often ordinary and lifeless when it ought to be precise and probing.

Ms Stewart (shown above and below) is saddled with way too much of this tiresome dialog, and since she is a subtle but not particularly versatile actress, and since her character here is the most important thing in the film, that dialog ought to help her explore and deepen that character. It does not.

Rather, it allows the actress -- who relies to an awfully great extent to a single expression, or if we're lucky maybe two (to which all the stills above and below will attest) -- to simply "be herself" -- which is believable enough, all right, but not very interesting or meaningful in this case.

Her character, Maureen, has recently lost her brother to untimely death, and it would appear that his ghost may be trying to communicate with her (being a "medium" to the spirit world seem to run in their family).

So we get occasional "appearances" by this spirit world, and between shopping trips for her uber-wealthy client, someone/thing is also trying to reach her via cell phone. Because of this, we get rather lengthy texted conversations (M. Assayas proves better with texting dialog than with the speaking version).

Eventually Maureen discovers a dead body, the police are called in, and the murderer (there's really been only a single suspect here, so any "mystery" proves pretty paltry) is quickly caught. Then we're off to Africa for a bit more soul-searching. Trouble is, there just isn't much soul to search.

The movie is almost entirely comprised of Ms Stewart, and the actress is always a pleasure to watch -- even here, without much of a story to surround her. Nothing we see or hear seems all that substantial or even believable.

So I suspect that, in the case of this new film, Assayas was simply diddling or doodling away the time, trying to come up with a story, situation and character that will make his cobbled-together and rather goofy ideas cohere. He doesn't manage this, but he'll bounce back. He always does. (Summer Hours, for example, is one of the richest family/possessions films ever.)

Meanwhile Personal Shopper, from The Criterion Collection and running a too-long 105 minutes, arrives this coming Tuesday, October 24, on Blu-ray and DVD, for purchase and/or rental. 

No comments: