“I’m a personal shopper, I hate this job actually. I spend my days doing bullshit and it doesn’t interest me,” says Kristen Stewart in the Olivier Assayas-directed Personal Shopper, the film selected to lead French Night at this year’s Hong Kong International Festival. Mystery and the supernatural converge in Personal Shopper, a drama galvanized by Kristen Stewart, once again reaching heights as the complex muse of Cannes laureate Assayas (Irma Vep, Something in the Air).
The multilayered plot twists and turns around the young and thoughtful heroine played by Stewart, a dead twin who may be trying to communicate with her, a fashionista boss, and the complications that separate and unite life and death.
Horror is not just about slash and gore. As the Best Director award-winner at last year’s Cannes Film Festival probes the genre, he shows that grief has dimensions that bring together the everyday and the supernatural, the mysterious and the lost.
Assayas will introduce the film and his epic saga Carlos (2009), the three-part biography of the infamous international terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal, will also screen. Assayas will conduct two masterclasses following the screenings of the films.
That Personal Shopper should be the headline of The Hong Kong International Film Festival’s French Night is significant. The festival is one of Asia’s oldest and most reputable platforms for filmmakers, film professionals and filmgoers from all over the world to launch new work, and for the public to experience outstanding films.
The 41st edition of the festival will be held from April 11 to April 25. Screening around 250 titles from more than 55 countries in 11 major cultural venues across the city, the festival is Hong Kong’s biggest cultural event.
That the French selection should deviate from romantic drama, a mainstay of the cinema there, is also noteworthy. The genre is, however, represented by Frantz (2016), a François Ozon film exploring grief and forgiveness during wartime, and A Woman’s Life (2016), Stéphane Brizé’s moving adaptation of the Guy de Maupassant novel.
There are also a series of moving stories revolving around the French family unit. Le Fils de Joseph (2016) is Eugène Green’s contemporary comedy of misplaced paternity; Mum’s Wrong (2015), by Marc Fitoussi, observes the absurdity of the adult world through the eyes of a 14 year old working as an intern with her mother’s company; and Katell Quillévéré’s Heal the Living (2016) is a wrenching experience about organ transplants.
Committed to discovering new talent, the festival premieres the breadth of Chinese cinema and showcases Asian talents. For the past seven years, the festival has also produced and premiered anthologies of short films by well-known award-winning filmmakers from Asia such as Ann Hui, Kurosawa Kiyoshi, Jia Zhangke, Nakaka Hideo and Apichatpong Weerasethakul among others.
Beginning this year, the festival will collaborate with Heyi Pictures to produce two feature films a year by young Chinese filmmakers that will have a world premiere at the festival.
The society behind the festival is committed to making world cinema accessible and affordable to the public. Aside from organising the annual flagship festival, there is the Hong Kong – Asia Film Financing Forum, held last month and this month. Another annual highlight is the Summer International Film Festival held in August. Another scheme, the HKIFF Cine Fan Programme was launched in April 2013 with the aim to enrich and deepen the experience of moviegoers through monthly screenings of contemporary, retrospective and thematic movie showcases.