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Irma Vep1997

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  • 4.0
  • passes the bechdel test
Hong Kong action diva Maggie Cheung plays herself in haute auteur Olivier Assayas’ spiky satire of the French film industry. After seeing her in Johnny To’s cult-actioner HEROIC TRIO, past-his-prime director René Vidal (New Wave legend Jean-Pierre Léaud) impetuously casts Cheung as the lead in his remake of the silent classic LES VAMPIRES. Unable to speak a word of French and clad in a head-to-toe rubber catsuit, Cheung finds herself adrift among the disorganized crew, including an increasingly erratic Vidal, a lovesick bi-sexual costumer (Nathalie Richard) and a gossipy executive’s wife (Bulle Ogier). With freewheeling cinematography choreographed to the strains of Sonic Youth and Luna, IRMA VEP immerses the viewer into the heady desperation and l’amour fou of modern filmmaking.

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Winner of the "KNF Award" at the 1997 Rotterdam International Film Festival.


2 members like this review

Great in a dozen different ways - half of them Maggie Cheung who has incredible charm and pragmatic wit. It's a film for film geeks but it's funny, cool, and unpretentious.

Member Reviews (10)

Great in a dozen different ways - half of them Maggie Cheung who has incredible charm and pragmatic wit. It's a film for film geeks but it's funny, cool, and unpretentious.

2 members like this review
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top reviewer

Twenty years after it first hit the screen, "Irma Vep" is a paradoxical snapshot of French Cinema in the 90's. The New Wave has become the Old Guard, while eyes are wandering to distant places, like Hong Kong. It's the twilight of the age of the video cassette and the calm before the digital storm. Filmmaking was still FILM-making, and we are witness to the chaos of the process: obsession,turmoil, ego, madness. Such is the double-edged sword, the wonder and curse that is movie making. And yet, a persistant question remains. Why, after all these years, hasn't there been a remake of "Les Vampires" ?

1 member likes this review
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top reviewer

Olivier Assayas' thoughtful cinematic essay on 'the art of French Film' is so cool it almost burns.

From the music on the soundtrack (Sonic Youth / Luna / Ry Cooder) , the slickly planned "verite-ish" camera work to the kink costume - this movie is totally late 1990's chic cool. But there is much more going on here than style. Assayas is exploring the past, current and future state of French Cinema.

Assays' film drops us into a world in which a film crew is attempting to please their director and push against him at the same time. The crew holds the film in contempt for equally oppositional reasons. "Irma Vep" delivers an unexpected punch when we, along with the crew, see the small amount of edited footage created by the fictional director. The small bit of footage is inspiring, artistic, disturbing and something all together new -- and, yes, cool.

If you love Cinema, and you have a particular fondness for French Nouvelle Vague, you will love Olivier Assayas' slick and totally cool meditation of the state of French Cinema.

1 member likes this review

I enjoyed the realistic way that human nature was displayed, and how projects involving many people create chaos where personalities and emotional needs collide. The only reason I didn't rate it higher is because I prefer a more developed plot.

1 member likes this review
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top reviewer

This is like being dropped into a Parisian street scene hearing and interacting with people you have never had contact with. Maggie Cheung negotiates this mess with incredulous expressions of bemusement and bewilderment. A conundrum but truly indicative of "New French Cinema". It is all summed up with the fallen director's edits of his masterpiece!

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top reviewer

i love this film_love everything about Maggie Cheung_love Nathalie Richard as Zoe as well_it's sort of an odd ride_you get dropped in the middle of a film mess_no one knows what going on exactly_so it's insane so yeah that's ok_love the Sonic Youth madness when Maggie goes wild_it's fantastic & the b&w shots are great & the end is super fantastic_WOW

I don't believe I ever thought to put Assayas alongside Robert Altman before - Michael Winterbottom in certain things as well. The way events unfold seemingly of their own accord is something I particularly enjoy, although I can imagine that getting on some viewers' nerves. There's a sense in this as well as "Clouds of Sils Maria" and even "Carlos" of the narrative spinning out of control or lurching off into unexpected avenues. Others' mileage may vary, especially at the end.

Emotionally it's damn' close to a lot of the indie flicks I worked on in my mis-spent youth. Ah, memories.... Somehow I always forget how much I enjoy watching Maggie Cheung do stuff.

Maggie Cheung is amazing as usual, and this film pays due honor and respect to a Chinese superstar debuting in Western film. It does render her a bit banal, though. I wished the film focused more on her as a person rather than introducing her as a vehicle to provoke critique about French film culture. As for the film Irma Vep itself, the beginning and middle is not that compelling, but the ending is quite fresh. To fully enjoy this movie, I think a background in French New Wave cinema would help, since it haunts the mind of the director. The wonderful Jean-Pierre Leaud is in this movie: his work would be a great place to start.

a splendid soap opera, like all of assayas's films. you don't need to be a film geek to enjoy, because really it's not so much about the context, as about the relationships within the context.

Confused and difficult to follow plot. Disappointing.