In Personal Shopper, Olivier Assayas' outré yet unexpectedly touching tale of luxury brands and ectoplasm, Kristen Stewart's character is demoted to an even lowlier celebrity adjutant than the star played in Assayas' Clouds of Sils Maria. A studiously disheveled American temporarily in Paris (greasy hair, oversize pullovers, a look not unlike the one Stewart herself has been seen sporting in paparazzi shots), Stewart's Maureen hopes to make contact with her recently deceased twin brother, with whom she shared a paranormal gift. When she's not waiting to receive signals from the dead, Maureen dashes from one high-end boutique to the next for the fashion-fascist celebutante/gorilla-rights-activist boss she says she despises, Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten). Just before boarding the Eurostar to London for yet another haute-couture errand, Maureen seems to receive a message from the beyond: the first in a string of menacing texts from an unknown source. The iPhone clutched in Maureen's hand becomes Stewart's most significant screen partner in Personal Shopper, a film in which she is often framed in isolation.
The premise is ludicrous, but not unexpected from Assayas, a restlessly inventive filmmaker whose sinister global thrillers Demonlover and Boarding Gate likewise pivot on absurd plot points to plumb 21st-century malaise and disorder. Here, he allows one of the most famous people on the planet to become smaller. And also, paradoxically, bigger: I can't think of another Stewart vehicle, not even any of films from the Twilight pentad, in which the actress appears in every scene, often alone or as an anonymous figure in a crowd. In this supernatural tale, the phantom looming largest is that of Stewart's actual celebrity.