Hong Kong action diva Maggie Cheung (playing herself) comes to France when a past-his-prime director casts her in a remake of the silent classic Les Vampires. Clad in a rubber catsuit and unable to speak a word of French, Cheung finds herself adrift in the insanity of the film industry…
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Not just the coolest, most fun movie playing on MUBI right now, but one of the most insightful examinations of the crisis cinema hit on its 100th birthday. Gesturing to the silent era, poetic realism, and the New Wave, it has a keen sense of history, and few sights can get to a cinephile quite like Jean-Pierre Leaud himself wondering what it was all for. A eulogy for the past and a shot of energy for the present.
At once a deconstruction/analysis of stardom and the illusion of film making and an example of these. Maggie Cheung is both a) a real person that is objectified by others as a Star and b) a luminous Star. This is an incisive look at film making and people's beliefs about the cinema. My favorite bit is the scene with the interviewer who won't stop talking about action movies. Also, super-duper cool soundtrack
More than as a satire of the French film industry, I enjoyed the film for its distanced study of the alienation of a foreigner. Assayas's touch is deft and composed but he has been better elsewhere, especially in Carlos. Nevertheless, the necklace scene was painterly in its execution and is the best moment in the film.
Being a filmmaker, this movie checks off some very personal points about how artistry and romance intermingle during a movie. Violence makes its appearances too, no doubt.
What brings Irma Vep close to my heart after only one viewing is that all of these elements are done so well.
Bold, exciting and inventive in '96 and even better now Assayas' film is a fantastic peak into French filmmaking, petty jealousies, human nature and the futility in making remakes. Maggie Cheung playing a version of herself is simply brilliant here with wonderful support from a heartbreaking Natalie Richard. The film has that late night atmosphere about it with the music to match; Luna, SonicYouth, Ali Farka Toure
Assayas drops Cheung in the middle of a fictional French remake of Les Vampires in order to write a surprisingly seamless essay on French cinema itself, though as an earlier Assayas production it feels more like he's just getting started and he ends it quite hastily. One cannot fault his final sequence, though. --PolarisDiB
Jean-Pierre Léaud plays Jean-Luc Godard. Yes, they all thought he was finished, washed-up, worthless, a mad man... but when they finally see his film, it's beyond the reach of mere mortals. Maggie Cheung plays Maggie Cheung playing Irma Vep, stalking the hotel in her rubber outfit, walking the rooftops in the rain; a phantom lady over Paris. The greatest film about the nature of film since...?
"just be yourself" - what becomes most interesting is not the remake of the film but what is new that is brought to film, in this case - everything behind the scenes, where the characters are themselves. (Maggie Cheung is evn playing herself in the role). interesting link made between silent films and abstract expressionism as well.