Kristen Stewart haunts “Personal Shopper,” a very French ghost story

personal-shopper-kristen-stewart-image

In her last collaboration with director Oliver Assayas, “Clouds of Sils Maria,” Kristen Stewart’s character literally disappeared halfway through the movie.

While watching the pair’s next film, the haunting “Personal Shopper,” one half-expects her to vanish before our eyes in this movie, too.

“Personal Shopper” is a ghost story, elliptical and surprising, and it’s not always clear that Stewart isn’t the ghost. The film is out now in a new Blu-ray edition from the Criterion Collection.

Assayas says in an interview on the Criterion disc that he wanted to make a ghost story that was quintessentially French. That included the Paris setting, and references back to the 19th century, when Europeans would regularly hold seances and even craft crude portraits in which their deceased loved ones “appeared.” In “Personal Shopper,” the ghosts seem to be all around us.

Stewart plays Maureen Cartwright, an American living in Paris who works as a personal shopper to a wealthy celebrity philanthropist, Lara (Sigrid Bouaziz). Since Lara is too famous to go out in public, Maureen goes out and buys expensive clothes and jewelry for her. We hardly see Lara in the film, and she hardly sees Maureen, and each is an almost spectral presence in the life of the other.

Continue reading

Advertisements

“Island Soldier”: Leaving a tropical paradise for hell on earth

Island-Soldier_KEY-IMAGE

Most Americans couldn’t find Micronesia on a map. And yet young men from the island nation (located 2,000 miles west of Hawaii) serve and die in the U.S. military.

That unusual relationship is explored in “Island Soldier,” a new documentary by Nathan Fitch that plays at DOC NYC this year and is touring other film festivals in 2017.

Continue reading

James Ivory’s “Maurice” and “Moonlight” would have a lot to talk about

maurice

If nothing else, “Maurice” has the British’s gift for not talking about what they’re talking about on full display. Being gay is referred to, famously, as “the unspeakable vice of the Greeks” by one character, and in other instances we hear a gay love affair referred to as a “muddle” or “messiness.” As Ben Kingsley, playing an American hypnotist, says in what may be E.M. Forster’s novel’s most quotable line, “England has always been discinclined to accept human nature.”

Continue reading

Kelly Reichardt’s “Certain Women” presents a triptych of loneliness on the frontier

CertainWomen_1920x1080

Sure, it would have been nice to have a lavish Criterion Collection Blu-ray edition of Kelly Reichardt’s “Certain Women.” Multiple commentary tracks, behind the scenes footage, maybe even some animated storyboards for the sequence when the Rancher (Lily Gladstone) cleans out the barn.

But that’s not really the way Reichardt, who makes crisp, economical and devastating indie drams like “Wendy & Lucy” and “Old Joy,” rolls. No shot, no line of dialogue exists in her films without a purpose. So, it’s perhaps fitting that for “Certain Women,” which adapts three short stories by author Maile Meloy, the Criterion disc only has a triptych of short interviews with Reichardt, Meloy and producer Todd Haynes.

Continue reading

“Heal the Living” is a heart-tugging French drama about life and death

healtheliving_01-h_2016

How do you make a movie about a heart transplant and not make it a medical drama?

Katell Quillevere’s “Heal the Living,” out on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber, achieves this by giving equal weight to the donor and to the recipient as well as the doctors. The result is a humane triptych of a film which, although it lacks real suspense or drama, contains moments of stunning beauty and enveloping empathy.

Continue reading

“Obit” is an entertaining film about journalists facing the ultimate deadline

obit-6

Those of us on social media know the feeling; that sense of dread when everybody in your feed is suddenly talking about a famous person you hadn’t thought of in a while. Go back far enough in your timeline and you see why.

A lot of us are amateur obituarists now, posting our remembrances and recollections in 140-character bites on Twitter or a little more on Facebook. That collective outpouring can be a fine and even necessary way to mourn – at least until the point when people in your feed start making inappropriate jokes. But the documentary “Obit,” now out on DVD from Kino Lorber, makes the case for leaving it to the pros.

Continue reading

“Hopscotch”: His name is Matthau. Walter Matthau.

hopscotch-3

If Jim Broadbent had been hired to play the next James Bond (and that idea sounds better and better with every word I write), the result might be something like Walter Matthau in “Hopscotch.”

He’s an international secret agent who jets from Germany to Bermuda to London, a master of secret identities who catches the bad guys and stays one step ahead of his pursuers. All while wearing grandpa sweaters and reading glasses.

Continue reading