paranormal

All posts tagged paranormal

Psychics, Sadness and Mystery in Assayas’ Personal Shopper

Published April 6, 2017 by rmpixie

Personal Shopper (2016, 1 hr, 45 mins.)

 

It’s no surprise that death is devastating for those in mourning. Missing loved ones who have passed on comes in many forms but most of us would confidently say that faith (or lack thereof) aside, we don’t really know what happens to our soul after the physical body ends. In Personal Shopper, we see one woman’s struggle with the death of her twin brother and her belief in the afterlife. It brings to light deeper questions about life and death staged before the backdrop of Paris, the fashion world, and its trappings.

Maureen (Kristen Stewart) works for a self-centered celebrity and socialite Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten) as a personal shopper. Her job is to find the latest and greatest in high fashion and bring it back to her famous employer since her high profile makes it impossible to shop anonymously. Maureen has also recently lost her twin brother Lewis to a heart defect she also suffers from. His surviving partner Lara (Sigrid Bouaziz) wants to sell their house, but Maureen who is a medium, insists that Lewis will send her a sign from beyond, so she spends a few nights in his crumbling house waiting for him to appear. He was a medium like her, so her determination is fueled by his once stronger psychic abilities and their vow to make contact from the other side. When she does contact the spirit world, she also receives mysterious text messages topped off with an unexpected murder that stops her in her tracks. Maureen’s quest for answers becomes more confusing, leaving her in a state of shock and floundering for answers.

Kristin Stewart as Maureen waiting for a sign.

Personal Shopper is a horror, a film noir, a psychological thriller, and a ghost story. It is all of the above and none of the above at the same time, embracing and defying genre. Director Olivier Assayas created a film that’s in a class of its own using art, history and old school paranormal beliefs with 21st century technology and lifestyles to illustrate Maureen’s search for her brother’s spirit. It’s this artistic take that kept me riveted despite the slow burn pace.

Assayas captures Maureen’s loss well, and he also conveys the loneliness of this technological age we live in with Skype and smartphones being key methods with which she communicates. Even when she is with someone physically or electronically, she is separate, guarded, or unsure; from her shopping excursions to her Skype dates with her boyfriend. The smart phone as a thing of necessity in this day and age to stay tethered to this world also becomes an agent of isolation and intense paranoia when Maureen pleads with a nameless messenger behind the texts to reveal themselves.  Assayas takes a now commonplace device and gives it a more otherworldly, sinister presence.

Personal Shopper is also a lesson in how Maureen grieves. She throws herself into her work even though she flat out hates her fashionable job, but Paris is her main connection to her dead brother so she stays there as she waits for a ghostly sign, not ready to let go.  The world of fashion is a fleeting one; rarely delving deeply into the reality around it. Her psychic abilities seem to be stunted as she moves between posh shops in London and Paris to serve Kyra in this superficial arena. It shows how she herself seems like a spirit as she is lost between real life, the supernatural, the fashion world, and her uncertainty with what she believes and how she is perceived. Her only moment of self-awareness comes when the mysterious messenger asks her to do something forbidden, and she taps all too briefly into her desires in her confused and somewhat desperate state. It’s a strange moment in the film, but it makes sense as her character searches for a right fit, so to speak, in environments that while not hostile, aren’t hospitable to her either.

The look of the film is really beautiful. Yorick Le Saux, the cinematographer for Only Lovers Left Alive, does a wonderful job capturing the contrast of the dingy streets and stark sophistication of Paris. He is skilled at making the most of each setting, representing streetscapes and boutiques in their truest and most tangible forms. For anyone that has visited the City of Lights, you’ll feel nostalgic for its frenzied energy.

My only issue lies with the text messages and some of the ensuing actions asked of Maureen. While I really enjoyed these suspenseful interludes and there is definitely a point to them, they were problematic with some details that still remain unclear when the storyline makes a sharp turn. Stewart’s stellar performance as a tortured, uncertain and lost character written for her by Assayas, evokes a surprising amount of emotion that overshadows any inconsistencies in the narrative however, as you watch this poor soul wait for her brother to tell her something, anything as proof of an afterlife.

Personal Shopper is an artistic take on a ghost story and focuses on one woman’s uncertainty when mortality comes into question. See this film for it’s beautiful photography, a haunting performance from Stewart and an interesting albeit imperfect story about grief and the afterlife.

 

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The Conjuring: Old School Creep Fest!

Published August 4, 2013 by rmpixie

the conjuring

The Conjuring (2013, 1 hr 52 mins)

As you may know, I have a great love for paranormal reality T.V shows like Scariest Places on Earth (with host Linda Blair), Most Haunted, Paranormal State, and more recently Ghost Mine, Paranormal Witness, and American Haunting .  Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (most famously known for investigating the Amityville house) were consultants on a few of these programs in the early 2000’s and Lorraine more recently, giving their insight and advice on many haunted or paranormal incidents.  This was my first exposure to the paranormal duo, and I was so excited when I heard there was a movie being made about them by James Wan (who also directed Saw, Insidious and their sequels), a worthy director in my eyes.

Even though The Conjuring is a re-enactment of true events, this film is special because it goes for broke and is incredibly authentic.  I’m going to rank it in my top 5 films of this year and also the top 5 for darn good scares. We are taken to 1971 where a series of paranormal events plague the Rhode Island home of the Perron family.  Ed and Lorraine (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga respectively) are portrayed as seasoned investigators, with Lorraine’s clairvoyant abilities and Ed’s demonologist expertise taking them from lectures, haunted objects and homes where they debunk or confiscate “conduits” where needed (if you have a doll phobia, this movie will freak you out).  When they are approached by a terrified wife and mother Carolyn Perron for their help, they can’t say no, and descend into a world of classic haunting fare, major creepiness and a battle for innocent souls.

This pixie is a stickler for details and so was the production team for this film.  Having grown up in the 70’s immediately makes me nostalgic for that era and all its trappings.  The Perron home was reminiscent of every house I’ve lived in during my childhood:   old plaster walls, bad lighting, and creaky wooden floors.  Oh yes, and the creepy, cement floored cellar.  The wardrobe was spot on, down to the high collared, embroidered nightgowns that I got every Christmas, and Vera’s wardrobe really represented Lorraine to at T since I have seen her wearing ruffled shirts to this day.   I also remember having those weird ceramic-like mugs with the screened florals on the side which were staples in every kitchen in the 70’s, including the Perrons’.  The movie almost felt like it was made in that era.  That helped set the tone for a classic horror film, as well as the creepy scoring by Joseph Bishara (who also played the angry entity Bathsheba) which included the old school “horror tuba” (my name for it) that I love so much.

The performances were pretty incredible.  In my eyes, Lily Taylor can do no wrong.  My sis and I were talking about her career, and we remember her in Mystic PizzaSay Anything,  Six Feet Under, and more recently Hemlock Grove.  Her heartfelt portrayal of Carolyn Perron was convincing and made me cringe with anticipation when the shit hit the proverbial fan. Vera Farmiga got Lorraine’s tone of voice and mannerisms down pat, and Patrick Wilson?  So dreamy, and I can’t say I didn’t like him saying my name with such intensity.   Just wished it wasn’t under such um, soul sucking circumstances .  The girls who played the 5 daughters were pretty amazing as they kept the fear and intensity at a constant, and Ron Livingston held his own as the bewildered father and husband Roger who just wanted his family safe.

I don’t shriek and tell, but if you are sharp, you will see the real Lorraine Warren’s cameo somewhere in the film.  I am also so glad that she was a consultant on the film and met with the lead actors.   Sadly, Ed Warren is no longer with us on this plane after his death in 2006,  but Lorraine has said that he wanted her to continue the paranormal work.  That little lady has a lot of spirit (please excuse the pun) and wisdom, and I believe she is still doing the occasional investigation (the last one I saw was on Paranormal State).   You can check out some interesting links here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4WvDfLYr74

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJfeN2Kej-0

http://www.warrens.net/Warrens-Bio.html

Andrea Perron, the eldest daughter from the Perron family, discusses the happenings and her book House of Darkness, House of Light.  Very interesting background on the actual events:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9VtUo9q2NI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfNrDYJ72KI

I highly recommend seeing The Conjuring as I think it harnesses old school horror with conviction and from what I’ve gathered, stays respectful to all involved in the actual events.

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