‘Personal Shopper’ director Olivier Assayas with costars Kristen Stewart and Sigrid Bouaziz at the Cannes Film Festival on May 17 (Photo: Joel Ryan/AP)
By Brent Lang, Variety
Personal Shopper, the new psychological thriller from Olivier Assayas, premiered to strong reviews, but also boos at Cannes this week. In a press conference on Tuesday, the French director and star Kristen Stewart shrugged off the negative response from some audience members.
“When you come to Cannes, you’re prepared,” said Assayas. “You’re prepared for anything.”
Comparing premiering a film to giving birth, he added: “Movies have a life of their own … people have expectations of a film and then the film is something else.”
Stewart and the rest of the Personal Shopper cast interjected to note that the harsh reaction was not universal. “Hey, everyone did not boo,” Stewart said with a chuckle.
At another point, Assayas argued that the audience was put off by the film’s ambiguous closing. “It happens to me once in a while where people just don’t get the ending,” he said.
The film has certainly proved polarizing. Despite the groans from audience members, many critics have embraced the picture, with The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw handing it five stars and The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin praised Stewart for being “virtually never off-screen or less than riveting.”
In Cannes, audiences are never shy about hissing as the credits roll. Past films that have provoked that kind of reaction include Gus Van Sant’s Sea of Trees and Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives.
Even reviewers who praised Personal Shopper noted that the film may be too elliptical for all tastes. Stewart stars as an assistant to a celebrity who is haunted by the memory of her dead twin. Personal Shopper draws on horror film traditions in crafting its portrait of an A-lister’s right hand, prompting journalists to ask the actress for her views on the supernatural.
Declaring herself “agnostic” on the subject of ghosts, Stewart went on to say, “I truly believe I’m driven by something that I can’t really define … it gives me a feeling that we are not so alone.”
Personal Shopper marks Stewart’s second collaboration with Assayas. The two previously partnered on 2014’s Clouds of Sils Maria, and Stewart praised her director for encouraging her to dig deep.
Related: Cannes Film Review: Cafe Society
“There’s a communication that is undeniable,” she said. “There’s a light, there’s a flame that he lights under my ass that is stronger than I have ever felt.”
Stewart said she had no qualms about appearing topless or performing any of the film’s more explicit sexual scenes. Because her character is undergoing an identity crisis, Stewart said she felt the nudity was integral to her performance.
“I will do anything,” she said. “I wanted to be the most thoughtless, present, naked version of myself that I could possibly be.”
“The only way to do that is to get naked and reveal yourself,” Stewart added.
Watch the trailer for Kristen Stewart’s previous film with director Oscar Assayas, ‘Clouds of Sils Maria’: