Here is the thing. Though the French love and consume the images and narratives of Hollywood, their directors have totally failed to become Hollywood directors. The Brits? We only need to mention Hitchcock. The Germans? Fritz Lang. The Austrians? Billy Wilder. The Dutch? Paul Verhoeven. The Chinese? John Woo. The French? Almost nothing. The directors of that country can only deal with Hollywood at a distance and on their terms. And so we have Personal Shopper, a new and very French film by the great Olivier Assayas that stars American superstar Kristen Stewart not in her element but in that of the French. Hollywood must come to Paris, must become a part of Paris, must move up and down the streets of Paris. This is Personal Shopper.
This is also Assayas' second collaboration with the princess of Twilight, and the second film where she plays a person who works for someone famous. (In the previous film, Clouds of Sils Maria, that famous someone was the Famous French actress Juliette Binoche.)
In a conversation I had with Assayas over the phone, he pointed out that he was very aware of the brilliance of Stewart's fame, and this is why he placed her in roles that deflected or diminished it. This was very French of him. He wanted the spell of the Hollywood spectacle, but without its heat. (Assayas explained to me that he is a fan of Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle.) The way he deals with Stewart's fame reminded me of Charles Baudelaire's description of a dandy: A person who, like a star in the sky, is bright but cold.
Assayas told me that he is very open to making a third film with the Hollywood star.