AND OTHER CRITICS' NOTES FROM CANNES 2016 - 'ELLE' - 'NEON DEMON'
Some of the films at Cannes the past week and a half have reminded critics of Brian De Palma, with Body Double mentioned specifically in regards to two of them. Here's a roundup:
OLIVIER ASSAYAS' 'PERSONAL SHOPPER'
"In some ways, Personal Shopper feels like a Gallic cineaste’s attempt to recapture some of the freewheeling, kooky genre-drama of a 1980s Brian De Palma movie – and there’s more than an echo of Body Double here – but what’s missing is the latter’s style and verve. The lack of glamour in [Kristen] Stewart’s introverted, depressed personal shopper character leaches into the visual style of a film that, with the exception of a couple of scenes set in a scary old house and a spoof period movie reconstruction, often feels flat and conventional."
"There are, at a conservative count, four different movies inside Olivier Assayas' new film, led by his Clouds of Sils Maria star Kristen Stewart, and two of them might even be quite good. There’s the full blown ghost story, complete with creaking floorboard, haunted house, CG-phantasms-hanging-out-of-chandeliers-spewing-ectoplasm, which is unexpected. There’s the straight-up grief movie, in which a twin mourns the recent death of her brother while the others in his life circle around her anxiously, which is promising but underdeveloped. There’s the Brian De Palma-esque elaborate and illogical murder mystery with added modern tech aspects (texting), which is twaddle. And there’s the fashion industry/celebrity satire part which is a lot of fun, because we get to see Kristen Stewart topless and trying things on, looking at jewellery, sneaking a go in her employer’s haute couture, forking over thousands for perfectly unremarkable handbags and generally purchasing the clothes that, at least half the time with Personal Shopper, the emperor isn’t wearing."
Personal Shopper is "an awkward fusion of ghost story, celebrity culture satire and half-baked Brian De Palma-style thriller. There are enough intriguing elements to keep it watchable but it never manages to gel into a coherent whole...
"...Assayas heads off the rails when he attempts to shoehorn way too many other elements into the story. We also spend time following Maureen on her day job among the haute couture houses and Cartiers of Paris, choosing items for her demanding celebrity boss Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten). Perhaps part of Maureen even wishes she was Kyra and that is what leads to the De Palma-inspired secret stalker, who acts like a refugee from Scream and urges Maureen to give in to her secret desires. Unfortunately, their cat and mouse games are played out in exchanges of text messages, which makes for deadly dull cinema. In some respects, Personal Shopper is rather stylish, with hints of Polanski and even Kieslowski in the execution, and Stewart’s nervy, edgy performance nearly manages to keep everything on track. Almost but not quite is the final verdict."
No De Palma reference in this next one, but interesting as a counterpoint to the negative reviews above:
"Among the many things that appear to be on Assayas's mind is the disembodied – and disembodying – nature of modern-day communication and social media, which makes ghosts of us all to those with whom we text far more than we talk. Perhaps no film has ever made the mobile phone quite such an instrument of tension: the on-screen iPhone ellipsis of an incoming message takes on a breath-halting urgency here.
"For the preservation of enjoyment, no more should be revealed about the film's gliding, glassy sashay through multiple, splintered genres and levels of consciousness – except to say that Assayas, working in the high-concept, game-playing vein of his Irma Vep and demonlover, is in shivery control of it all. And he's found an impeccably attuned muse in Stewart, who wears the film's curiosity with the same casually challenging stride that she does – in a key scene of sensual self-realisation – a jaw-dropping silk-organza bondage gown."
PAUL VERHOEVEN'S 'ELLE', WITH ISABELLE HUPPERT
"Not unlike Brian De Palma, another filmmaker who likes to skirt the boundaries of good taste, Verhoeven has inspired no shortage of gender-based arguments over the years: Whether his female characters are misogynist constructs or avatars of empowerment is a topic open to continual debate and reappraisal. That seems unlikely to change with his latest work, Elle, a breathtakingly elegant and continually surprising French-language thriller that brought the 69th Cannes Film Festival competition to a rousing close on Saturday."
"Michèle also finds herself curiously attracted to Patrick (Laurent Lafitte), her married neighbour across the road – and in a sequence worthy of Brian De Palma, she pleasures herself while peering at him through a pair of binoculars from her study window, while he sets up an outdoor nativity set."
NICOLAS WINDING REFN'S 'NEON DEMON'
"It's a gory, bloody, and erotic thriller that evokes David Lynch (in Mulholand Drive) and Brian De Palma (in Body Double), making direct reference to Under the Skin (2013), with Scarlett Johansson."
"What starts out as a glossy, Brian De Palma-style thriller soon veers sharply into David Lynchian territory and finally into surrealist horror. It turns out this is not All About Eve, nor Star 80 after all, but another Refn taunt which embraces camp and revels in horror to the extreme. And there is nothing like cannibalism and necrophilia to set Cannes tongues wagging."
Journalist asks Refn if the film was inspired by Brian De Palma at all, because it reminded him of De Palma's Dressed To Kill. Refn responds, "Well, I love Brian De Palma. I mean, who doesn't love Brian De Palma?"