Personal Shopper

Synopsis: Maureen (Kristen Stewart) is a high-class personal shopper for a wealthy entrepreneur named “Krya”.  She lives in France, but often travels to London to purchase lavish items for her employer.  Garments, jewelry, shoes, and accessories where money is no object.   Maureen often pays with a blank check.

After the loss of her brother “Lewis”, Maureen begins to search for answers.  Her brother, like herself, was a medium.  Maureen begins by exploring his old home, waiting months in hopes of making contact with him.

Both Maureen and Lewis firmly believed in a connection to the spirit world; that there is a place we go between life and death.  A world on top of our own.

Maureen begins to receive messages on her phone from an “Unknown” number, who psychologically torments her.

Outlook:  Throughout the film, director Olivier Assayas uses lighting and cinematography to tell the story, just as much as the actors read their lines.  We are presented with a fade to black several times, signifying new chapters and developments within the plot.

As the film progresses, Maureen’s character begins to show her true colours.  Perhaps realizing guilt is whats holding her back about Lewis’ death.  She begins playing with “forbidden” tasks, such as trying on Kyra’s clothes and accessories.  Perhaps a way of finding herself, or just rebelling against an employer who she hates.

Maureen begins to feel the affect of her brothers death more and more, combined with the psychological torment of the “Unknown” caller.

Personal Shopper has an ominous feeling throughout, leaving you looking over your shoulder, as if someone is watching you.

I admit, I was often wondering what was happening, or how does this connect with the plot, but like any good thriller, all is revealed.

Ex Machina

WARNING: Contains spoilers …

Synopsis: Caleb Smith, a programmer for Blue Book (Google, essentially) is chosen for a one week retreat to meet the companies CEO and founder, Nathan Bateman.

Bateman has been working on a secret project regarding artificial intelligence at his secluded, luxurious home.  Bateman has been working on a sentient machine he calls “Ava”.  Caleb is told about Ava prior to them meeting, and Bateman asks Caleb of he believes the robot will pass the Turing test.

Outlook: Ex_Machina is one of the few sci-fi films that really draws in the audience.  This is far from a Marvel film where intelligence with no predisposition to violence, becomes violent, sarcastic, narcissistic and decides to attach rockets to a massive piece of Earth.

One thing that I have always thought ever since I watched this movie, is how would us, as a human being, be different from a robot if they [the AIs] didn’t know they were a robots.  Meaning, you and I could be sentient machines.  This is of course a stretch, as all you have to do is cut us open to see we are not wires.  But what about on the most basic level of consciousness? If something truly believes it is alive, and if has consciousness then it is alive, is it right to call it a machine?

The manipulation Bateman uses on Caleb is perfect.  However, Ava has truly mastered it.  When Caleb truly believes he is also a machine, and caught in Bateman’s web, he is not only desperate to find an answer, but also to save Ava.  Ava, having perfectly manipulated Caleb, had no intention of being saved, but always wanted to escape.

This is the truly masterful piece of the film.  Ava, being a sentient machine, plays the innocent young woman doing exactly what she believes Caleb wants.  If AI can begin to manipulate the human condition… well, that is terrifying.

Right now, we have no idea what consciousness is.  It can’t be measured or viewed.  Neurons firing trillions of times a second create synapses in our brain that gives us our personality, our ability of choice, and the ability to over think every detail.  Such as, getting stuck in a logic loop.  Some of the greatest minds of today have urged people to stop developing a self-learning algorithm.  AI has been a fascination for us ever since James Cameron wrote Terminator.

Nathan Bateman: “One day the AIs are going to look back on us the same way we look at fossil skeletons on the plains of Africa. An upright ape living in dust with crude language and tools, all set for extinction.”

Ex_Machina was recognized by the National Board of Review as one of the best independent films of the year.

Featured image courtesy of “JustWatch”