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'Personal Shopper' TIFF 2016 Review: Arthouse meets haunted house

September 9, 2016Ben MK

Arthouse cinema is all about trying new things. So when writer/director Olivier Assayas, best known for dramas like Summer Hours, decides to make a movie about ghosts, it's easy to appreciate the intention behind it. Reteaming with his Clouds of Sils Maria star Kristen Stewart, Assayas' latest film isn't as thoughtful as their previous collaboration. But it's still haunting — in more ways than one.

In Personal Shopper, Stewart plays Maureen, a dissatisfied woman who spends her days going from shop to shop, purchasing designer clothing, shoes and jewelry for her demanding boss (Nora von Waldst├Ątten), and her nights wandering about her darkened childhood home, hoping desperately to make contact with the spirit of her recently-deceased twin brother, Lewis. But when Maureen finally makes contact, she finds more than she bargained for. Could the entity that she seems to have summoned really have some connection to her dearly departed brother? The disturbing text messages and the sense of dread that begins to follow her around would suggest otherwise.

Set in Paris, Personal Shopper continues Assayas' tradition of using picturesque locales as the backdrop for his films. However, he also juxtaposes this beauty with scenes of disturbing ugliness, such as that of a bloody crime scene. Ultimately, though, it's Stewart's performance that defines the film. Present in virtually every frame, Stewart is also an audience surrogate, acting as our eyes and ears into Assayas' world of the supernatural. The result is an atmosphere-heavy foray into the unknown, but it's the questions the film raises that linger on.

Personal Shopper is receiving its North American premiere as part of TIFF 2016's Masters programme. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 45 Min.

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