CANNES, France — In a pair of films at the Cannes Film Festival, Kristen Stewart makes a plaything of her celebrity, giving a homes-of-the-stars Hollywood tour in Woody Allen’s 1930s-era tale “Cafe Society” and playing a fashion assistant in Olivier Assayas’ psychological drama “Personal Shopper.”
Though “Personal Shopper” was met by a smattering of boos at its press screening in Cannes, Stewart has won raves for both performances. Her sly subversions of her fame — playing characters that exist just outside the real-life spotlight always fixed on her — follow her award-winning role as a famous actress’s personal assistant in Assayas’ “Clouds of Sils Maria.”
In the mysterious “Personal Shopper,” her character buys designer clothes and jewelry for a star, while mourning her late twin brother, with whom she believes she can communicate spiritually. On Tuesday, Stewart discussed fame as a constraint that can immobilize her.
“Sometimes I do feel a little bit like I’ve had my limbs cut off,” Stewart told reporters. “That’s not to say it’s a bad feeling, it’s just surreal.”
Cannes has been a valuable place for Stewart to explore new, more adventurous avenues for herself, and she has been a common, much-photographed presence throughout this year’s festival. She has at turns welcomed the notoriety — dancing on the red carpet premiere of Andrea Arnold’s “American Honey” — and sought to evade it.
Summoning the fright of her character in “Personal Shopper,” she said, needed no communion with the supernatural.
“The constant nature of life is so terrifying,” she said, under press-conference lights. “You can’t get away from it. Like right now, I can’t get out. I can’t get out of here! I cannot get out of right here.”
“Personal Shopper” is a shifty, enigmatic film that drew mixed reviews from critics. Booing has a long tradition at Cannes where many jeered or divisive films have gone on to become well-regarded.
Asked about the booing, Assayas (“Carlos,” ‘’Summer Hours”) said he accepted that “movies have a life of their own” and that Cannes, in all its feverish intensity, is “the extreme version of that.”
The 26-year-old Stewart voiced her strong support for the director.
“There’s a flame that he lights under my ass that is stronger than I have ever felt,” said Stewart. “I really try to navigate my career by feel. I just feel him.”
Stewart was particularly forthcoming about the challenges of the film (“I didn’t know what the hell I was doing ever,” she said) and how she sought to be “the most thoughtless, present, naked version of myself I could possibly be.” It was a vindicating experience, said the actress.
“This movie made me feel like there’s nothing that I can put myself through that will ever actually make me not be able to keep going,” she said.
In Allen’s “Cafe Society,” Stewart plays the assistant to a powerful Hollywood agent (Steve Carell) who’s drawn to the larger-than-life figures of the movies. But in one scene, Stewart seems to be commenting on her own place in the industry: “I think I’d be happier being life-size,” she tells the visiting out-of-towner, played by Jesse Eisenberg.
Asked whether she connected with her character’s mysticism in “Personal Shopper,” Stewart pondered it.
“Do I believe in ghosts? I don’t know, I guess I believe in something,” she said. Later she added: “I’m really sensitive to energies and I truly believe I’m driven by something I can’t really define. It gives me a feeling we are not alone.”