Originally posted September 22, 2018
What this movie made clear to me is how helpful it is to have bonus features on DVDs with which to find out more about how and why the movie was made -- and how frustrating it is when these features are absent. I was not terribly taken with the film, although I thought Kristen Stewart did a very good job with it and the movie had an interesting premise. My biggest problem with it was how disjointed the film was and the second was that I found the central character, who is in every scene, usually alone, irritating.
What did interest me was hearing the director's discussion of the film which went a long way to explaining why it ended up the way it did. The movie was actually composed of three different ideas -– it was to be a ghost story because of a movie he was supposed to work on that fell through the first day of shooting. He had been immersed in the idea and decided to do his own film in that vein. He had also been interested in looking at the daily experiences of someone on the bottom rung of the fashion business in Paris. And he was also interested in exploring the role of technology in modern life. Any one of these things was certainly interesting in themselves but each would have made for a very different sort of film on their own.
The fourth factor, which came about after the film was being developed, is the director's fascination with Kristen Stewart, who he had just finished doing another film with (and who he expressed interest in doing a third film with). On the one hand I can see why, given how she carries this film, but his own fascinated voyeurism is also part of the problem, because it assumes the audience is as intrigued as he is. It isn't until the latter half of the film that much really happens plotwise (and in one case for no clear reason).
However listening to him talk about his ideas makes this film much more interesting than it was on its own. For example, his comparison of how people's isolation with technology is not much different than that of people's communion with the supernatural –- in both cases we are alone and are projecting a connection that is only somewhat there –- was thought provoking. He was talking largely about texting, which limited his argument, but had a direct line to the Morse code of seances and Ouija boards.
He also created a lead character who has always been one half of a whole, who always followed her male twin, and who dresses in shapeless masculine centered clothing in the film (despite having a job centered on women's clothing and appearances). So he sees her as discovering her own femininity for the first time as she separates from her now dead twin. This is a pretty fascinating idea as well, but it's poorly explored in the film, and it also strikes me as profoundly unlikely for someone in her line of work –- however would she have been chosen for the role of dressing a celebrity?
Obviously a truly successful work of art stands on its own without requiring explanations from critics or creators to communicate something to the audience. But it can certainly be instructive when it comes to the case of failures as well as successes.