Although "Planetarium" may not wholly satisfy as the kind of statement film it so ambitiously aims to be, this intriguing drama, confidently directed by Rebecca Zlotowski (who co-wrote with Robin Campillo) proves a singular, at times haunting experience.
In the late-1930s, as Nazi Germany tenses its grip on Europe, American Laura Barlow (Natalie Portman) and her much younger sister, Kate (Lily-Rose Depp), are in Paris with their touring paranormal stage show. Laura's more the emcee, while Kate seems to possess the real psychic power.
They also perform private séances, which is how they meet André Korben (Emmanuel Salinger), a wealthy film studio chief (loosely based on real-life producer Bernard Natan) who decides to dramatize the sister act for the big screen. But Andre's fascination with the Barlows' spiritual access will soon become more personal — and revealing.
This stylishly shot picture's alluring first half gives way to a more meandering, yet still watchable, second part involving romantic encounters, illness, ghosts, the risks and strains of filmmaking and the creeping realization that the world is about to change in unthinkable ways.
Portman, whose Laura is by turns efficient, protective, resourceful and captivating, is superb, though the more ethereally drawn Kate (Depp) proves less defined.
In French and English with English subtitles.
Running time: 1 hour, 48 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle Royal Theatre, West Los Angeles