Personal Shopper ★★

A trashy horror-thriller disguised as arthouse fare with badly performed nonsense dialogue spewing from Kristen Stewart, led astray by the director who worked so well with her in Clouds of Sils Maria; none of that film's ambiguity or enigma slips into this one, ironic since it's essentially the same role/concept except with a ghost story thrown in. The major problem is padding -- there are tangents that seem incompatible with the main body of the film, or perhaps the overall arc doesn't fit with the actual mood of the piece itself -- and none of the several ideas being juggled in the script coalesce in any meaningful way, with a bizarre detour into CSI territory about three quarters in particularly sticking out. There's an endless sequence devoted to nothing but Stewart texting someone, which might evoke the use of title cards in silent films if the unspoken dialogue were less clumsily mundane or if anything of interest at all was happening onscreen during the entire half-hour. The cheapness of the ghost-hunting scenes -- and what feels like the stilted self-consciousness in Stewart's voice when she has to mutter about being "a medium" -- is unworthy of everyone involved, and it's really hard to understand how anyone thought they were a good idea or that the script examined its supposed ideas with any grace, but like so many fine filmmakers, it seems as if Assayas had to get some basic-cable stupidity out of his system.

Assayas' fans wonder why other directors don't film things like Skype and iMessage and such and I'd like to volunteer to explain: they're really fucking boring, and infuriantingly uncinematic, and bad for the very concept of drama.