psychic

All posts tagged psychic

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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Huckster’s Paradise

Published November 11, 2012 by rmpixie

redlights

Red Lights (2012, 1 hr 53 mins)

Sigourney Weaver plays Dr. Margaret Matheson, a psychologist and professor who teaches others to disprove the paranormal phenomenon.  She is a sharp shooting, no-nonsense scholar who does not suffer fools.  Her trusty assistant professor, physicist Tom Buckley played by Cillian Murphy, is always at hand.  Together, they slay charlatans left and right.  Enter Robert De Niro as Simon Silver, a world-renowned and blind psychic, who comes out of decades of seclusion after the scandalous and ill-timed death of his top critic.  Many believed his supernatural  abilities were behind the death, and this is brought up and sensationalized as Silver readies himself for a series of sold out appearances.

Matheson and Buckley both champ at the bit to debunk Silver, because to them, he is the father of all hucksters. After catching one of Silver’s disciples in a full on side-show act, they turn their sights on the big fish  They also have personal vendettas against all things clairvoyant.  Margaret has a son on life support, and a past encounter with Silver where he claimed to see her son’s spirit solidifies her hate for him and anyone claiming to be psychic.  Buckley’s mother narrowly survives stomach cancer even though a psychic told her it was nothing to worry about. Silver agrees to a series of scientific testing to show he is legit, from mind reading to spoon bending (although I think the spoons were just happy to see him).  A battle of wills ensues, with mysterious, dead air phone calls, birds flying into windows and lights constantly a flicker.

Unfortunately, Margaret never sees the results of the testing.  She too falls victim to a suspiciously untimely death.  This kind of annoyed me, because I loved how Sigourney played this character.  You could really see her suppressing her beliefs with logic.  Almost afraid to believe, she champions facts instead of faith because all her hopes were dashed with her son’s illness.  With Margaret gone, Buckley now has a personal score to settle with Silver, and is determined to prove him a fake.

I love that this film was shot here in Toronto, my home town.  I was also pleasantly surprised to see my long-time friend, actor and pro athlete Ray Olubowale, with a small role.  He just keeps popping up when I least expect it.  When Buckley tracks Silver down to a mysterious, run-down building, he is questioned by Ray, a security guard packing some serious muscle.  Buckley scurries away as he gets the signature, Big Ray stink-eye.  Love it!

The director, Rodrigo Cortes also did Buried, which I hated.  Can’t stand that Reynolds boy.  Ick.  All I could think was “Die already!!”  This movie however, wasn’t bad.  I think it got panned because some of the plot wasn’t so obvious, but I felt that was the whole point.  There is an underlying theme of not seeing the forest for the trees; missing the sleight of hand.  This leads to an interesting twist to the climax of the film, one that some of us may catch if we pay attention to some pretty obvious hints earlier on.  I kind of wish there was more background to Silver’s character, but that might have given too much of the plot away.  De Niro is good, but I find it difficult to see him as anything else but a gangster.   I also liked Cillian Murphy as the nerdy, behind the scenes foil to Weaver.  He steps up to the plate to avenge his colleague’s death, and shows us the value of trusting yourself and your instincts when logic doesn’t cover all the answers.

Most Memorable Line: “When I hear the drumming of hooves, I don’t think unicorns, I think horses.”  Dr. Matheson’s simple description of Occam’s Razor (the law of succinctness.  Look it up-I did!)

Favorite Scene:  It’s a toss-up yet again. First comes the scene where Buckley jumps a weird line of devotees to see psychic Silver, and one of them hisses at him. Then there’s the psychic surgery performed by Silver live on stage.  It’s a chicken liver and fake blood people!  Oldest trick in the book!  Wanna buy some snake oil too?

Telepathic Twins from Hell!!!

Published October 22, 2012 by rmpixie

secondsapart

Seconds Apart (2011) 1 hr 29 mins

This film had such potential! As part of the After Dark Originals, I was excited to see what this contribution had to offer. Unfortunately, the over use of flashbacks drew the movie out to the point where I stopped caring.

Twins Jonah and Seth Trimble lock horns with the persistent Detective Lampkin as he searches for answers to several suicides that occur at the boys’ school.  The look-a-like lads (played by real-life twins Edmund and Gary Entin) ride around on dorky looking bikes, sleep in the same bed, and have a creepy quadruple stink-eye.  They seem unassuming and dorky, but you soon learn that they are not the nerds you want to mess with.  When they hold hands, an evil force is unleashed that makes their victims do their bidding.  Top that with weirdo parents, a new girlfriend, and a bizarre but never explained search for a “feeling”, and you have the recipe for an interesting horror.

Alas, it was not to be so!  These twins were born 93 seconds apart.  I would say that each scene needed to cut the same amount of time.  Despite the creepy and convincing performance by the twins and a cool, modern gothic look to the production, I gave this movie a “meh” and one shoulder shrug.  Orlando Jones plays the detective.  His performance was fine, but the flashbacks that piece his past together were distracting and didn’t really add to the story.  I would have loved to see more on the twins as they grew up and all the twisted things that shaped their abilities, as well as the source behind their quest for the “feeling”.

Of course, this is just my humble opinion.  At least this movie made it to distribution.  And someone is making a living off of these movies, cuz I, for one, am watching them.  So kudos to the director Antonio Negret and writer George Richards for trying something original. It’s a premise that definitely caught my eye.

Most Memorable Line:  couldn’t really find one.

Weirdest Scene: toss-up between the priest and the guinea worm (weird and mildly gross), and the detective’s visit to the doctor that helped the twins’ mother conceive.  His office was in a basement of some medical building and it was just, for lack of a better word, weird.

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