Irma Vep

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This article is about the French film. For the satirical play by Charles Ludlam, see The Mystery of Irma Vep.
Irma Vep
Irmavep.jpg
Directed by Olivier Assayas
Produced by Georges Benayoun
Written by Olivier Assayas
Starring Maggie Cheung
Jean-Pierre Léaud
Nathalie Richard
Cinematography Eric Gautier
Edited by Luc Barnier
Distributed by Dacia Films
Release date(s) November 13, 1996
Running time 97 minutes
Country France
Language French/English

Irma Vep is a 1996 film directed by the French director Olivier Assayas, starring Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung (playing herself) in a story about the disasters that result as a middle-aged French film director (played by Jean-Pierre Léaud) attempts to remake Louis Feuillade's classic silent film serial Les vampires. Taking place as it does largely through the eyes of a foreigner (Cheung), it is also a meditation on the state of the French film industry at that time.

The film was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival.[1]

Plot[edit]

Cheung is employed to play the film-within-the-film's heroine, Irma Vep (an anagram for vampire), a burglar, who spends most of the film dressed in a tight, black, latex rubber catsuit, defending her director's odd choices to hostile crew members and journalists. As the film progresses, the plot mirrors the disorientation felt by the film's director. Cheung the character is in many ways seen by other characters as an exotic sex object dressed in a latex catsuit; both the director and Cheung's costume designer Zoe (Nathalie Richard) have crushes on her.

The film makes reference to iconic figures in French film history: Louis Feuillade, Musidora, Arletty, François Truffaut, the Groupe SLON, Alain Delon, and Catherine Deneuve. Thematically, the film questions the place of French cinema today. It is not a “mourning for cinema with the romantic nostalgia” but “more like the Mexican Day of the Dead: remembrance as an act of celebration,”[2] so that “It is less a film about re-presenting the past, than it is a film about addressing the present, specifically the place of France within the global economy.”[3]

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The idea for the film was born out of an attempted collaboration between Assayas, Claire Denis, and Atom Egoyan, who wanted to experiment with the situation of a foreigner in Paris. In the 1915 original serial, written and directed by Louis Feuillade, Irma Vep was played by French silent film actress Musidora (1889–1957). Much of the film depicts set-related incidents that echo scenes in Truffaut's La nuit americaine (English title: Day for night), to which Irma Vep owes a large thematic debt.

However, Assayas has publicly stated that although he considers La nuit americaine a great film, it is more about the fantasy of filmmaking than the reality. Assayas credits Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Beware of a Holy Whore as a much greater inspiration.

Assayas married Cheung in 1998. They divorced in 2001. They again collaborated in 2004 on the film Clean.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Irma Vep". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved September 20, 2009. 
  2. ^ Chris Darke, “Irma Vep,” Sight and Sound, vol. 7, no. 3 (March 1997), p. 52.
  3. ^ Dale Hudson, “‘Just Play Yourself, “Maggie Cheung”’: Irma Vep, Unthinking National Cinemas, and Rethinking Transnational Stardom,” Screen, vol. 47, no. 2 (summer 2006), p. 232.

External links[edit]