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Personal Shopper (2016)

Paranormal Activity: The Paris Poltergeist

Not unlike a Jean Rollin film, notwithstanding the budget and talent involved, Personal Shopper follows the steps of Demonlover, Assayas’ own Necronomicon, in its disgust of genre movie even though everything he has to say boils down to that French gore movie he doesn’t have the guts to film. That’s too bad, because such a movie would truly be something to behold.

An horror movie which doesn’t dare to speak its name, Personal Shopper is either a good film or a terrible one, depending on one’s perspective. Positing Kirsten Steward (positing as good) as the empty vessel prompting the movie ahead by doing shopping for someone else and being bored to bits in the process, the movie is as interesting as a brilliantly filmed Whatsapp chat not for you to read in the first place. “Life sucks” (Salome, 15yo).

Women fashion, see, is a realm of its own, which men as Refn in The Neon Demon or Assayas here are tempted to use as backdrop for their male fantasies, one for exhibition angst and the other for existentialist whatever. Still, here we revert to Marlene Dietrich as the high priestess of haute couture/camp in a reluctant makeover scene which feels hopelessly dated unless, confessing something far beyond the viewer’s interest, it is simply masturbatory in nature. It goes, one guesses, with the territory of winning the Cannes Prix de la Mise en Scène.

Some Cours Florent alumni attempts to quote Victor Hugo in some you-wish-had-been-deleted-scene, and there you are left stranded, in some Nouvelle Vague version of Suspiria. It’s impeccably made, sure, but it has everything one has learnt to dread about French author cinema: high on itself, lost on subject, and complacent on paleography.

A glossy film on an opaque topic, Personal Shopper ends (or not) on a Paranormal Activity note, thus coming clean about its limited appeal: this is, ladies and gentlemen, a contemporary take on haunting, vampirism and death-by-shopping, brilliantly lensed by an aging cinematographer in search for relevance in a subject-matter which he has no affinity with. Frankly Olivier, you were already struggling with Demonlover, and that was 15 years ago. You should learn from your mistakes.

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