Monday, October 10, 2016

New York Film Festival screenings 2

Personal Shopper (Oliver Assayas, 2016)
It's a bit early to be remaking Clouds of Sils Maria (2014). There Kristen Stewart played the assistant to a famous actress. Here she works as the titular consumer for a fashion icon. Assayas has grafted on a silly ghost story and if Stewart can't bring alive lines about ectoplasm escaping through the nose, well, who could? There's also a gory murder mystery the blitheness of which leaves me typically indignant about the use of dead women as story devices. In short, as narrative, Personal Shopper is a mess. But the centerpiece of the film pivots on a series of goading iPhone text messages sent to Stewart by...well, I'm still not 100% certain, narrative not being my strong point. No matter. At the Q & A after the screening, Assayas explained the unforeseen difficulty of filming an iPhone and we believed him. He manages to juice unbearable tension from those grayed-out ellipses signaling that someone is typing. The drama in these scenes is so palpable, in fact, that whoever was doing the actual texting deserves an Oscar for superb pacing and mercurial characterization. Maybe a Best Texter category is in order. One more item to note: people always have books and cigarettes with them in France.

Here's Assayas with Amy Taubin:

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