Personal Shopper (2016)

Directed by Olivier Assayas

Maureen, mid-20s, is a personal shopper for a media celebrity. The job pays for her stay in Paris, a city she refuses to leave until she makes contact with her twin brother who previously died there. Her life becomes more complicated when a mysterious person contacts her via text message.

It was a shrewd idea to include the earlier scene of Maureen at the doctor's office. Whilst there's also something a little unsettling about the way they convey all that background exposition for the benefit of the viewer, the hyper-casual nudity raised an eyebrow for this viewer, if only due to her paratextual status as a famous movie star. Yet it has a purpose in that, given the scene's context and the way it's acted, the inclusion serves to deeroticise her body, and so we start to understand her relationship to the clothes she is picking up for her ghost of a boss and, perhaps, we start to see Maureen the way she sees herself... essential for her transgressions later in the movie.

Speaking of watching Kristen Stewart, though, the boundary between 'craft' and 'skill' is blurred in the extended sequence of Maureen travelling to London and back within a few hours. There is nothing flashy in the filmmaking to make it stand out — even the threatening text messages from the mysterious man (only a man would have that kind of low-level aura of presumption) are merely unsettling; not earth-shatteringly disturbing. So why is it all so mesmerising? How come watching Kristen Stewart drink an espresso out of a paper cup from a machine in the Eurostar business lounge so utterly... fascinating?

Somewhat of an aside, I love the amount of Jordi Savall that Assayas includes in his films. I wonder what attracts him to this artist. Is it a personal, professional or cinematic connection, or is the director merely choosing the 'right' piece for the moment? Regardless, what a late-1500s slow and processional dance has to do with picking up a bondage dress "complete with the sort of under-harness that you might buckle onto a plow horse" eludes me. But it somehow works.

ps. David Ehrlich's personal essay/review of Personal Shopper is well worth reading.


[A] consultation with the prospective buyers who hired Maureen to investigate the house for ghosts offers a reminder that the woman’s paranormal research is a job unto itself.

Jake Cole (Slant Magazine)


Kyra is but one of two ghosts in Maureen’s life, the other being Lewis, her twin who was a medium before his death from a rare heart condition.

Tim Grierson (Paste Magazine)