Give or take a Snow White and the Huntsman or so, Kristen Stewart has largely stuck to the art-house realm since finishing her obligations to the “Twilight” franchise five years ago. But at a special screening of her new film, “Personal Shopper,” presented by Ruffino, Air France and UniFrance Thursday night at New York’s Metrograph, Stewart insisted that she hasn’t been intentionally pivoting away from mainstream fare.
“It’s been coincidental. It’s never been a strategic plan to do smaller things to offset the bigger ones. But the bigger ones make the smaller things possible,” she said, noting that in a few weeks she will start production on the big budget disaster film “Underwater.”
She continued, “But I never feel like there’s an exchange. I’ve only ever done larger projects that I think are worth it, and mean something, and affect me.”
“Personal Shopper” is her second film with the French director Olivier Assayas. Stewart earned some of the best reviews of her career with her turn in the director’s 2014 film “Clouds of Sils Maria,” so it was an easy call to work with him again, as she says they have an intuitive rapport.
“We’re very similar in the way that we want to throw ourselves into something that is mysterious rather than present ideas,” she says. “He opens up the environment in a way that is so freeing. You’re making something new, all the time, and that’s really exciting for me.”
While “Sils Maria” had more of a “satirical, ironic elements that made it lighter,” this particular film, by comparison, is “super French, man. It’s an existential crisis film,” Stewart described.
“Personal Shopper” follows the story of a woman trying to connect with the spirit of her recently departed twin brother. It has psychological horror elements reminiscent of Assayas’ acclaimed thriller “Demonlover.” And though the film might confuse those who discovered him via 2008’s lauded “Summer Hours,” which also surrounds deceased but not departed family, Assayas says that the film was a long time coming.
“I feel like most of my movies, in one way or another, have been about ghosts, including ‘Summer Hours.’ There’s always a presence of someone that is gone,” he says. “So in this film, I thought I needed to take it one step forward, and deal with the genre of horror and deal with the world where it is some sort of communication with the physical and the invisible.”