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Personal Shopper

The super-rich and the supernatural collide head-on in Olivier Assayas' tantalising character study, which charts the emotional breakdown of a celebrity gopher, who moonlights as a medium. Personal Shopper unfolds in a world of red carpet couture and social media self-promotion, and is blessed with a mesmerising lead performance from Kristen Stewart, who won a Cesar - the French equivalent of the Oscar - for her role opposite Juliette Binoche in Assayas' previous film, Clouds Of Sils Maria. Stewart is equally compelling here, teasing back the layers of her emotionally brittle protagonist, who slaloms through bustling streets on her moped, collecting dresses and parcels for her largely unseen boss. It's an unshowy yet powerful portrayal of a young woman, unhinged by grief, who is desperately waiting for a sign from beyond the grave that life does perpetuate after the end credits roll. Literal and metaphorical ghosts haunt the shadowy frames of Assayas' perplexing mystery, and he allows them to materialise courtesy of unobtrusive special effects to hint at the direction of his menacing narrative. Nothing can prepare you, however, for the spiralling madness of the picture's final 20 minutes, including a bemusing epilogue on the Arabian Peninsula that could - and arguably should - have been exorcised in its entirety. Stewart plays Maureen Cartwright, personal slave to a celebrity called Kyra (Nora von Waldstatten), who needs an underling to manage her diary and collect an endless array of loaned gowns from design houses around the world. Maureen has a similar build and frame to her employer, but she is forbidden from trying on the dresses. While she carries out her duties, Maureen has the onerous task of listening to the woes of Lyra's clingy boyfriend Ingo (Lars Eidinger), who is convinced that he is about to be dumped. As she caters to various whims, Maureen finds time to indulge her fascination with the supernatural. Before her twin brother Lewis died, he vowed to make contact with Maureen from the other side and she waits expectantly for a tangible sign of his protective spirit. Spookily, she begins to receive text messages from someone who refuses to reveal their identity. "Tell me something you find unsettling," instructs the texter. "Horror movies," types Maureen. These cryptic communications shepherd Maureen towards unexpected tragedy and - possibly - proof of life after death. Personal Shopper refuses to abide by well-worn conventions, avoiding jump-out-of-the-seat shocks in favour of slow-burning suspense. Stewart emits a haunting glow, even when the lights go out on plausibility in Assayas' script, performing for extended periods with just her smartphone. She compels us to believe in Maureen's haphazard journey of spiritual discovery. Even though her final destination is perplexing, her route holds us largely spellbound.