by Paula Schwartz
Kristen Stewart and French director Olivier Assayas joined forces again in Personal Shopper, one of three films starring Stewart screening at the New York Film Festival. The film premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and earned Assayas the Best Director award which he shared with director Cristian Mungui. Stewart and Assays had great success with their last film Clouds of Sils Maria which earned the actress some serious acting cred along with a César and a New York Film Critics Award.
In the ghostly thriller, Kristen Stewart plays Maureen, a personal shopper who obtains pricey and chic outfits for her seemingly one high-profile customer. She also communicates with the dead and is trying to reconnect with her twin, who recently died of a heart attack.
During the NYFF press conference for the film, the director spoke of his rapport with Stewart: “We have this non-verbal communication that is essential to our working together. It’s really so much part of how we function.”
He added: “What’s extraordinary with Kristen is how smart she is in understanding the most intricate complexities of cinema, of filmmaking, of what is going on with the shot. She recreates the character from the inside and she does it knowingly, but at the same time she’s guided by her body.”
Stewart looked terrific in a low-cut tuxedo jacket – with nothing underneath – and funky, stripped trousers. She is refreshingly candid, bright and unfiltered and peppers her speech with the occasional expletive.
Answering a question about the surveillance and stalking that’s seen throughout the film and that she herself has experienced the actress replied: “I think Maureen wants to be entirely invisible and at the same time really seen. I think she really struggles with that, and that’s pretty much everyone right now. I don’t hide anything. I don’t have any public social media things that I engage with, but I ultimately want to be see.”
Stewart added, “It’s weird. It’s like we think we have more control over that now than we’ve ever had because we have it in our hands, but we have none. I don’t know, this weird preoccupation with other people that is like so unbelievably distracting. I feel like much cooler productive rad things could be happening. I know I sound ridiculous. I sound really obvious and everyone says this, and I sound like an old person, but we could be doing way cooler shit. It’s so time-consuming. But it’s weird. We stalk each other. I stalk people. I get stalked… In the whole movie she’s struggling with a serious identity crisis because she’s two separate versions of a person. Also you’re totally alone when you’re doing it, and it gives you this false impression that you’re connecting or something.”
Personal Shopper contains a surprising sex scene. “Literally, Maureen is interacting with some thing on a phone, and like my heart started racing,” noted Stewart. “Some of the sexiest shit I’ve done onscreen I’m alone! I was like, ‘Oh my god, that is crazy’, and that’s what people do all the time. That’s insane! Such massive disconnection, yet you’re just fabricating a wonderful reality. That’s not less real, it’s just perception.”
One journalist asked Stewart if she could break down her outfit and whether she has a personal shopper.
“It’s a jacket and a vest and pants. I have a stylist. She’s rad,” noted Stewart. “But I choose my shit. I don’t like getting dressed by someone. This isn’t mine. We just borrow this stuff and go thanks! And then we give it back. They’ll all be getting this stuff back.”
Asked whether she believed in ghosts and had paranormal experiences Stewart admitted she and the director had many late night conversations about this very subject: “If it’s real for you, then what the hell else is there? And like there’s so much that we don’t see that we know to be true” and so “I think it’s self protective like a reduction of what it is by saying, ‘Do you believe in ghosts or not? Have they touched you?’ Well what else doesn’t touch you that exists? I don’t know what energy it is, whatever, there’s something that doesn’t go away, and whether I’m making that up or I’m actually being left with some like residual debris, I feel people intrinsically. And I think it leaves shadows.”