Scott’s Personal Shopper Review Is (a) Not Just The Most Perceptive and Persuasive But (b) One Of The Best-Written Reviews Ever, Period

Olivier AssayasPersonal Shopper, HE’s favorite 2017 film hands down, has opened to largely favorable reviews — currently at 77% on both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. A 67% or 71% rating means a modest degree of difficulty, but 77% basically means that a film has been judged as very, very good except for the complaints of naysayers who don’t or can’t get it.

I was blown away in particular by Tony Scott’s beyond-brilliant N.Y. Times review. It’s so on-target and revelatory that I felt spellbound as I read it. Scott doesn’t just understand and accept this immaculate and mesmerizing film; it’s almost as if he wrote or directed it himself and has taken to reviewing to explain it to the pissheads and tomato-throwers.


Kristen Stewart in Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper.

The “perpetually displaced nomad set” amid “the drift and mystery of modern life”…yes!

Read it on the Times site or here in its entirety, but this is about as bull’s-eye as it gets:

“Like many other characters in the films of Olivier Assayas, Maureen, a young American woman living in France, belongs to a relatively privileged slice of the international nomad class. The old-fashioned term ‘jet set,’ with its connotations of glamorous indolence, doesn’t quite fit. Mr. Assayas’s world is populated by figures in perpetual transit: actors, corporate executives, terrorists. Their identities have been dissolved by perpetual displacement. We remember their faces (which are often the faces of movie stars), even if we’re not quite sure who they are.

“Maureen, who works as a personal shopper for a spoiled celebrity named Kyra, certainly brushes up against glamour, and occasionally tries on a piece of Kyra’s borrowed couture. But she dwells mostly in a benumbed, stressed-out limbo, in frenzied motion from one nowhere to the next. Her human connections are often mediated by screens. She video-chats with her boyfriend, a tech consultant on assignment in Oman. She exchanges feverish texts with a stranger on a train from Paris to London and back. When asked what she’s doing in Paris, Maureen answers, ‘I’m waiting.’ (more…)

Personal Shopper at LACMA, etc.


Personal Shopper director-writer Olivier Assayas, Kristen Stewart following Monday night’s screening at LACMA. Whether Joe & Jane Popcorn choose to see it this weekend or not, Stewart’s performance as the antsy, stressed-out Maureen is her finest ever.

I’ve been looking at King Kong all my life, but I honestly never noticed any tata captures. Until I came upon this last weekend, I mean. Sorry.

Dan Gilroy, Riz Ahmed, Jake Gyllenhaal during filming of Nightcrawler. (Pic stolen from Esquire link.)

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Open Letter to Personal Shopper Loyalists

HE to Guy Lodge, Richard Lawson, Eric Kohn, Stephanie Zacharek, Peter Bradshaw, Robbie Collin, Tim Grierson, Jake Howell and others who were hugely impressed by Olivier AssayasPersonal Shopper: We were all knocked back when it played in Cannes five weeks ago, but a few too many critic friends have since told me “nope, not for me, didn’t care for it,” etc. And yet some of these same naysayers liked or even loved The Conjuring 2, which operates way, way below the level of Assayas’ film. And that, to me, is appalling.

All I can figure is that Personal Shopper is too antsy and schizo for some people. It’s too teasing and darting and inconclusive. It doesn’t behave like other ghost stories, and some just don’t know what to do with it. So they toss it and wash their hands.

Have any of you thought about the schism between admirers and dissers? What are your thoughts? What’s going on here?

There’s not the slightest doubt in my mind about how uniquely chilling and riveting this film is — it’s my second favorite film of the year after Manchester by the Sea — and how stunningly good Stewart’s performance is. And yet two or three days ago Tom Luddy and Julie Huntsinger of the Telluride Film Festival were both telling me how they didn’t care for it. C’mon!

I posted a short “Friends of Personal Shopper” piece in Cannes on 5.17, but here’s a more comprehensive rundown of the best raves:

Personal Shopper is strange, frightening, and possessed of a dark ribbon of sadness that no champagne gulped down at a post-screening beach party could drown out. There are certain scenes — scored by ominous thuds and whispering wind — that are so frightening that they were, for this wimp, extraordinarily hard to watch. A horror movie with a matte, flat-faced demeanor [and] a grief drama with a shiver of sylphic humor, Personal Shopper is as cathartic as it is terrifying, as knowing and wise about the weirder mechanics of the grieving process as it is utterly confusing.” — Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair. (more…)

Friends of Personal Shopper

“[A] captivating, bizarre, tense, fervently preposterous and almost unclassifiable scary movie from Olivier Assayas…a film which delivers the bat-squeak of pure craziness that we long for at Cannes, although at the first screening some very tiresome people continued the festival’s tradition of booing very good films.

“It is actually Assayas’s best film for a long time, and Stewart’s best performance to date — she stars in a supernatural fashionista-stalker nightmare where the villain could yet be the heroine’s own spiteful id. Is it The Devil Wears Prada meets The Handmaiden (also in Cannes) with a touch of Single White Female?” — The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw.

“How the hell did this movie get made? We pose this question in genuine awe, with absolutely no hint of back-biting consternation. Occasionally it’s a genre movie, then it’s a study of grief, then a satire, then a murder mystery and then a Hitchcockian thriller, and sometimes it manages to be all that and more in the very same moment.

“Assayas taps a wellspring of thought on forms of communication [while drawing] parallels between 19th century drawing room seances and Skype calls. In Personal Shopper, death is just another form of alienation, a physical remove from a person we once knew. Words themselves come under close scrutiny, and Assayas asks if we can ever truly connect with another person if we’re not standing right in front of them and communing fully with the senses. The incessant buzz of a smartphone becomes an attention-grabbing scream from out of the ether.” — Little White Lies’ David Jenkins. (more…)

Either You Get The Bedsheet Thing, Or You Don’t

From “Odd, Minimalist, Engagingly Trippy Ghost Story“, posted on 1.25.17: “David Lowery‘s A Ghost Story (A24, 7.7) lives on the opposite side of the canyon from Olivier Assayas and Kristen Stewart‘s Personal Shopper. It has to be said upfront that Lowery’s film isn’t all that scary. Okay, two or three moments put the chill in but this isn’t the game plan, and that’s what’s so cool about it. Really. Either you get that or you don’t.

“For this is basically a story about a broken-hearted male ghost (or formerly male) who doesn’t know what to do with himself, and so he mopes around and says to himself ‘Jesus, I feel kind of fucked…where am I?…what’s happening?…am I gonna stand around watching humans for decades or even centuries? I don’t know what the hell to do.’

“In life Mr. Confused was a married musician (Casey Affleck), and now, post-mortem, he’s returned to the home he shared with his wife (Rooney Mara). I guess all ghosts are unsettled spirits who just can’t surrender to the infinite, right? And so they hang out, looking or waiting for God-knows-what. 

“Affleck’s ghost watches his sad, suffering widow for a while (there’s a great extended scene in which Mara eats almost an entire pie while sitting in the kitchen floor), and then he gets pissed off when he sees that Mara has gone out with some guy, and then he gets even angrier when she leaves and a Latino family moves in.

“And then the film moves on in all kinds of trippy (not to mention time-trippy) ways. I love that it’s more of a metaphysical meditation flick than one trying to give you jolts. A Ghost Story even goes into the relatively distant past (the mid 1800s) at one point until it finally circles back to the present and in fact the very beginning, if that’s not too confusing. (more…)

No Missing The Latest Mungiu

I saw Cristian Mungiu‘s Graduation (Sundance Selects, 4.8) in Cannes about ten months ago. The great Mungiu, who shared the Best Director prize last May with Personal Shopper‘s Olivier Assayas, won’t be doing face-time interviews in Los Angeles. (Maybe phoners, I’m told.) My memory’s gone a little stale so I’m catching it again tonight at 7:30 pm.

But I’d see it again under any circumstance. All Mungiu films gain with repeated viewings. I’ve seen Four Months, Three Weeks, Two Days four or five times, and I could watch it again right now.

Conversation With A Master“, posted from Cannes on 5.20.16:

I spoke this afternoon with renowned Romanian director Cristian Mungiu, whose ethical drama Graduation (a.k.a. Bacalaureat) was universally praised after screening yesterday morning. I called it “a fascinating slow-build drama about ethics, parental love, compromised values and what most of us would call soft corruption.”

We discussed the film’s view of things, which is basically how capitulating to soft corruption can seem at first like nothing but that it can slightly weaken your fibre and make you susceptible to harder forms down the road.

Accepting and living with a certain amount of soft corruption is par for the course in my realm. It greases the wheels in this and that way. If you’re at all involved with the hurly burly, you know the truth of this. “This world is so full of crap you’re going to get into it whether you’re careful or not” — a quote from what film?

I mentioned a story I passed along yesterday about my father having persuaded a Rutgers professor to give him a passing grade despite having failed a final exam, which was definitely a soft ethical lapse. Mungiu smiled and said, “Life is complicated.” (more…)

Olly Olly In Come Free

Now that you’ve presumably seen Kong: Skull Island as well as Personal Shopper, do you understand what I was talking about a few days ago, which is that (a) Skull is a sloppy, scattershot joke (not one of those ten helicopters realized the danger and steered away from Kong’s reach during that chaotic swat-down sequence?) that feels a lot more like Son of Kong than King Kong and which is really quite stupid, and (b) Personal Shopper is smartly chilling and a bold, unusual knockout in more ways than you shake a stick at?

Untethered Parisian Anxiety Movie (Haute Couture, Ectoplasmic Spooks, Eurostar Ghost Texting, Street Aromas, Scootering)

Olivier AssayasPersonal Shopper finally opens theatrically this Friday, almost ten months after jolting and dividing the Cannes Film Festival last May. It’s being shown tonight at LACMA with Assayas and Kristen Stewart sitting for a post-screening q & a. The excitement that I felt just after the Salle Debussy screening — a sensation I’ll never forget — will be semi-rekindled one last time, and then the movie will die like a mouse trying to cross the Santa Monica Freeway at rush hour.

Yes, this brilliant fear-and-anxiety flick is going to perish faster than you can snap your fingers, which is all the more reason to see it immediately. Unless, of course, you couldn’t care less about theatrical submissions and would rather wait for streaming, in which case I say “go with God” or “go fuck yourself” — take your pick.

Either way Personal Shopper is irrefutably one of the most original and unsettling ghost flicks ever made and certainly the nerviest this century. This has been proven, in a sense, by the pooh-poohers and naysayers. There’s never been an important, game-changing piece of art that hasn’t been trashed in the early stages by milquetoasts and conservatives.

Personal Shopper‘s brilliance is partly about the fact that it’s not so much a “ghost story” as an antsy mood piece about…well, a whole jumble of ingredients but all of them drawn from the here and now. It’s more of an uptown cultural smorgasbord that’s seasoned with a ghostly current that you can take or leave, but it certainly doesn’t hinge on standard shock moments — cracked mirrors, moving furniture and all that.

Remember that Assayas won the Best Director prize last May, and that honors of this sort are never given out lightly.

If you like typical bullshit fast-food ghost movies…if you’re a Conjuring fan…if you like your goose bumps served with pickles, onions and extra cheese in a to-go wrapper then I sincerely hope you have a miserable time with Personal Shopper. The more I think about paying customers who are too stupid or rigid-minded to get it, the better I feel. But if you liked The Innocents and The Haunting, there’s hope for you.

An Australian critic wrote last summer that “I didn’t know that all I wanted in a movie was Kristen Stewart scootering around Paris buying expensive designer fashions for rich people while texting a ghost who may or may not be her dead twin brother.” See? He didn’t know what was coming but he got it all the same. I’ve scootered all over Paris for years on end, and watching this film for the first time…I’m not exaggerating…was simply one of the greatest summaries of that transcendent Paris scooterbuzz thing…it was heaven.

Help me, God…help me to return so I can once again use my wits and agility to dodge all that Paris traffic at night and feel like Jean Paul Belmondo in Breathless.

Personal Shopper is partly about how urban life can feel at times, creepy and cold and yet exciting at the same time, but it’s also about the way it all felt in the fall of ’15 (i.e., when Personal Shopper was filming), and about the vibe when you were roaming around Paris or any big-league burgh and coping with that current and feeling varying shades of fluidity and flotation. It’s a darting, here-and-there thing, a fleeting experience about the flutterings and rattles of spirits around the corner. Or deep within. Or out in the ether. (more…)

Ready To Inject Fresh 2017 Serum, But There’s Not Much Happening Until 3.10

The 2017 Sundance and Santa Barbara film festivals are history, the Spirits and the Oscars are less than two weeks away and all but concluded in the minds of most, and I for one am ready to jump into the 2017 batting cage and start swinging. But not until the next three weekends are past us. Okay, one or two might pass muster. This Friday’s (2.17) top openers are Gore Verbinski‘s A Cure For Wellness (already dismissed as a shortfaller) and Zhang Yimou‘s The Great Wall (Chinese monster epic, Matt Damon)…nothing. The 2.24 toppers are Eran Creevy‘s Collide (blah) and Jordan Peele‘s Get Out….wait, this might be something. The three big openers on 2.28 are Ry Russo Young‘s Before I Fall, James Mangold‘s Logan (might be decent) and Stuart Hazeldine‘s The Shack (faith movie with HE’s own Octavia Spencer as God). As far as I’m concerned the first two rip-snorters are opening on 3.10 — Jordan Vogt-RobertsKong: Skull Island and Oliver AssayasPersonal Shopper. Don’t listen to the naysayers — anyone who dismisses this film needs to refresh their browser and/or upload new software. Here’s my coverage going back to last May’s Cannes Film Festival.

A Film About A Fashion Maven?

IFC Films is seemingly determined to diminish the potential box-office of Olivier Assayas‘s Personal Shopper (3.10). First they decide to open it ten months after a bravura debut at last May’s Cannes Film Festival, and over five months after it played at last September’s Toronto and New York film festivals, thus ensuring that the buzz will be dissipated if not forgotten by opening day. Now they’ve come up with a poster that doesn’t even vaguely suggest in visual terms that Personal Shopper is a ghost story. (Yes, there’s a critic blurb that uses the term but good posters always deliver the message in visceral terms.) A fan poster that I found on a Kristen Stewart site does a far better job of conveying the mood and feel of it.


(l.) IFC Films’ recently posted one-sheet for Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper, which will open on 3.10; (r.) a far superior fan poster — one that suggets weird spookery on some level, but at the same doesn’t promise a conventional horror flick.

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Odd, Minimalist, Engagingly Trippy Ghost Story

David Lowery‘s A Ghost Story (A24) lives on the opposite side of the canyon from Olivier Assayas and Kristen Stewart‘s Personal Shopper, a ghost tale which is all kinds of different and original but seriously scary from time to time. It has to be said upfront that Lowery’s film isn’t all that scary. Okay, two or three moments put the chill in but this isn’t the game plan, and that’s what’s so cool about it. Really. Either you get that or you don’t.


Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck in David Lowery’s A Ghost Story.

For this is basically a story about a broken-hearted male ghost (or formerly male) who doesn’t know what to do with himself, and so he mopes around and says to himself “Jesus, I feel kind of fucked…where am I?…what’s happening?…am I gonna stand around watching humans for decades or even centuries? I don’t know what the hell to do.”

In life Mr. Confused was a married musician (Casey Affleck), and now, post-mortem, he’s returned to the home he shared with his wife (Rooney Mara). I guess all ghosts are unsettled spirits who just can’t surrender to the infinite, right? And so they hang out, looking or waiting for God-knows-what. 

Affleck’s ghost watches his sad, suffering widow for a while (there’s a great extended scene in which Mara eats almost an entire pie while sitting in the kitchen floor), and then he gets pissed off when he sees that Mara has gone out with some guy, and then he gets even angrier when she leaves and a Latino family moves in.

And then the film moves on in all kinds of trippy (not to mention time-trippy) ways. I love that it’s more of a metaphysical meditation flick than one trying to give you jolts. A Ghost Story even goes into the relatively distant past (the mid 1800s) at one point until it finally circles back to the present and in fact the very beginning, if that’s not too confusing. (more…)

2017 Roster Is Now 80

Updated on 1.1.17: The following is an update of a piece I originally posted on 12.9: With the addition of Alfonso Cuaron‘s Roma and a few others, Hollywood Elsewhere’s grand tally of high-end 2017 releases now comes to 80.

Of these I’ve listed 6 likely Best Picture contenders, a trio of high-end galactic thrillers, 23 pick-of-the-litter films from brand-name directors, 26 films of alternate interest plus 22 others of somewhat lesser distinction for a total of 79.

At least five of these have the traditional earmarks of Best Picture contenders — Kathryn Bigelow‘s Untitled Detroit Riots Drama, Chris Nolan‘s Dunkirk, Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Charles James ’50s period drama, Alexander Payne‘s Downsizing and Joe Wright‘s Darkest Hour, a Winston Churchill vs. Nazi war machine drama.

I would add Cuaron’s film, a Spanish-language Mexican family drama set in the ’70s, for a total of six, but the Academy will most likely consign it to the Best Foreign Language category.


Alfonso Cuaron during the Mexico City-shooting of Roma.

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Yesterday’s Bang-Around


Fat Baby (112 Rivington, Wed. thru Sunday, 7 pm to 4 am) “is a multi-level bar/lounge…both a rock and roll venue as well as a unique version of downtown NYC nightlife set in an LA-inspired lounge setting.”

Snapped ten minutes before last night’s 9 pm New York Film Festival screening of Personal Shopper. Maybe 10% occupancy, and then suddenly everyone began streaming in between 8:55 and 9:05 pm. They’d all been schmoozing in the lobby. Every seat was taken when the lights went down. The film actually began a bit after 9:15 pm. The room loved it (you could feel it) but the projectionist deserves a spanking for initially failing to frame the image so the occasional subtitles could be read.

Babeland (94 Rivington St.) is a casual, relaxing, feminized atmosphere. (For the most part the days of dudes working in sex shops are long gone.) Their paraphernalia is viewable & purchasable on their site but for some reason one of the staffers told me “no photos.”

(l . to r.) Personal Shopper director Olivier Assayas, Kristen Stewart, NY Film Festival honcho Kent Jones during post-screening q & a.

Finally Waking Up To This

Olivier AssayasPersonal Shopper had its NYFF press screening this morning, and will screen for public festivalgoers tomorrow night. By which time I’ll be in the city and hobbling around. Critical and public acclaim for one of the coolest and most unusual films of the year, five months after debuting in Cannes and five months before it finally opens next March.

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“Coming Soon” = Over Five Months From Now

You can take the following three statements about Olivier AssayasPersonal Shopper (IFC Films, 3.10.17) to the bank: (1) It’s one of the coolest, creepiest and most unusual ghost stories ever made, although it’s definitely not for easily seduced fans of typical moron-level horror flicks; (2) It didn’t get booed in Cannes — I was in the audience and I’m telling you the truth — the ending is what got booed; and (3) It contains Kristen Stewart‘s finest performance ever — nobody can match her antsy, anxiety-ridden behavior and vocal-fry delivery here. The whole jittery undercurrent of urban, upscale life in 2016, that “okay but what’s gonna happen next?” feeling tugs at her manner, throws shade upon her features.

Here are three more: (4) This new trailer is suggesting that Personal Shopper is a lot more “oh my God!” and emotionally on-the-nose than it actually is — very little of it actually goes “boo!”; (5) Some of the most perceptive, clear-light critics of our time — Guy Lodge, Richard Lawson, Eric Kohn, Stephanie Zacharek, Peter Bradshaw, Robbie Collin, Tim Grierson, Jake Howell — are Personal Shopper loyalists; and (6) IFC Films execs intend to repeat their Clouds of Sils Maria strategy by releasing this film, which was shot in ’15 and exploded at last May’s Cannes Film Festival, over five months hence, or two months into Hillary Clinton‘s first term.

The “Coming Soon” at the end of the trailer is therefore…what, a typo? Personal Shopper had a full tank of gas after debuting last May — it reflected the under-zeitgeist and vice versa in spades; that tank will be all but empty by the time 3.10.17 rolls around. Pic is opening in France and Belgium on 12.14.16.

Different Business Attitudes

Reaction among execs running A24, the distributor of Andrea Arnold’s American Honey (opening on 9.30.16): “It’s so great when this kind of buzz gets around. This is why we love this business because when a movie has the right kind of chemistry and the right kind of chops, something magical happens and it just takes off with ticket buyers…it becomes this mystical, unstoppable act of art and nature that people feel they just have to see.”

Reaction among execs running IFC Films, the distributor of Olivier Assayas‘s Personal Shopper (no U.S. release date): “Why don’t guys like Lawson leave us alone? We’re letting the Toronto and New York film festivals show Personal Shopper, fine, but we’re not sure how we feel about it. Some people in Cannes weren’t fans and that gives us the willies. The concept of releasing Personal Shopper intimidates us financially, if you want to know the truth, and so we’re almost sorry we acquired it and we’re not sure we even want to release it any time soon. Okay, maybe sometime next spring. But please, just stop it. We hate tweets like this. They just make things worse.”

Getting Tiresome

Ten days ago I complained about IFC Films not having decided on a release date for Oliver AssayasPersonal Shopper. Today I wrote the following to IFC Films honcho Jonathan Sehring plus their publicity staff:

“If you ask me Personal Shopper is a knockout — an artful, unusual, arguably groundbreaking Kristen Stewart spooker.  Unless there’s something wrong with me it seems (and please tell me if you think I’m wrong) like an obvious Halloween attraction. You guys have had it since Cannes, where Assayas won the Best Director trophy (shared with Cristian Mungiu). It’s won rave reviews from key critics, has landed a NYFF berth, and is opening in England and other European territories (UK, France, Belgium) at the end of ’16. And you still haven’t given it a U.S. release date.

“This is the first Kristen Stewart film with a supernatural atmosphere since the Twilight saga, and it’s at least five times better than all the Twilight films put together, and yet you seem unsure about its potential. If you were going to release Personal Shopper in late October you surely would have announced that by now. Halloween is only ten weeks away so I guess we know the answer.

“You’re presumably uncertain because it drew a divided critical response in Cannes. For me this is one of the best films of the year so far (it’s my second favorite after Manchester by the Sea), and yet you haven’t settled on a damn release date. Two months ago I was told that you were thinking of bumping it into the late winter or spring of ’17. If you’re going to bail on a fall release, would you at least confirm this? (more…)

Jordan Poker

Yesterday afternoon I asked occasional Awards Daily contributor Jordan Ruimy, who mainly files for The Playlist while writing his own online column, to join me for an Oscar Poker session. Jordan, who will soon move with his wife from Montreal to Boston, attended Sundance last January (he shared my condo) and also did Cannes, and he’ll be in Toronto. Plus he knows his stuff. We talked about the fall season in general, but the two hottest conversational topics were (a) why has IFC Films refused to firm a release date for Olivier AssayasPersonal Shopper? and (b) will Paramount even release Martin Scorsese‘s Silence this year? Again, the mp3.

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Conscience Explodes


Taken eons ago on Daytona Beach. I don’t feel good about the white loafers. I can’t explain the motive.

The Poor Cow clips that Steven Soderbergh used in The Limey were (a) desaturated, (b) fragmented, (c) sparse and (d) mostly soundless. Tonight, for the first time in my life, I get to see the full-color, all-in version of Ken Loach’s 1967 film. Along with the latest episode of The Night Of, of course.

Those are my blurry hands taking iPhone shots of Kristen Stewart during the May 2016 Personal Shopper. press conference in Cannes. I knew for sure because of the brown leather wristband.

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