I took the weekend to read the almost unanimous praise by colleagues for Cannes 2016 Best Director Award winner, Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper with Kristen Stewart for a second touring of Assayas’ universe after Clouds of Sils Maria.
Stewart is the personal shopper of the title in the Paris fashion world. Being also a girl of her time (and place), beside making it a major point of being anorexic, she chases ghosts in the evening using her smartphone to reach the beyond. So we get to see, for countless minutes, tiny Stewart, dressing, undressing, drinking coffee, stressing and texting a spirit trying to outsmart the smartphone by feeding the ghost lines provided by the director who happens to be the screenwriter. The depiction of bored rich people is so effective that we are actually bored.
We can argue, about such ventures, that it’s about the faculty to create the right ambiance. But the whole build up of it is a lackluster succession of dull images, devoid of depth, and pedestrian action where the would-be chilling parts are completely off target. To create a tension that didn’t make it to the screen, the addition of noise, which poses as horrific background music, is simply irritating, no more. So long for the ambiance.
It doesn’t quite make it as a drama and fails as an ambient piece. With ghostly ambitions, it is not enough to just say : Boo! Still, some people where right on, in Cannes, when they booed Personal Shopper .