[...] “Planetarium,” Rebecca Zlotowski’s flirtatiously arty period drama starring Portman and Lily-Rose Depp (“Yoga Hosers”) as tight-knit sisters and performing mediums swirling around the worlds of spiritualism and cinema, is a movie of only superficial pleasures, offering little emotional resonance beyond an expected late-act leaning toward Europe’s troubles to come.Sharp-eyed, opportunity-grabbing Laura (Portman) is clearly the brains of the outfit, while Kate (Depp, sporting a slit right eyebrow like an offbeat beauty mark) is the intense channeler who seems entirely dependent on her older sister, and perhaps a tad cut off from reality.Convinced his personal séance time has led to the appearance of someone from his past — Zlotowski, keen on preserving some mystery to Kate’s “gift,” inserts shots of boots sitting at the table’s empty chair and shows Korben reacting to a supposed ghost strangling — the impresario becomes possessed with the idea of filming the sisters and making them exponentially more famous.On the day of shooting, however, Laura wins over everyone with her presence and personality, and after proven by screen tests (lovingly recreated in Academy ratio black-and-white and era-saturated color), she’s asked to star in the company’s upcoming film as, what else, a charismatic medium.Allure and artifice are its grand themes, and also its problem, as Zlotowski’s emphasis on the sensuality of belief and how it blinds us to reality never gels into a potent cinematic idea, even as the director’s passion for the power of movies is sumptuously rendered by cinematographer George Lechaptois (“Disorder”).When the movie splits up the sisters, sending Laura to the south of France for a movie-set romantic subplot, while Kate innocently allows Korben to make her a guinea pig at a metaphysics institute, a frisson of tension arises over the consequences of the Barlows’ separation.
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