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Rene Vidal, a director in decline, decides to remake Louis Feuillade's silent serial "Les Vampires." Believing no French actress can match Musidora as Irma Vep (an anagram for vampire), he casts Hong Kong action heroine Maggie Cheung, though she speaks no French. On the chaotic set, she's aided by Zoe, the wardrobe mistress with a crush on her; she defends Vidal to a Parisian journalist who trashes all French film and praises John Woo and Schwarzenegger; she befriends Vidal when he goes over the edge; and, in costume, she breaks into a hotel suite to steal jewels as her victim talks on the phone. We also watch the making, the rushes, and the remains of Vidal's unfinished film. Written by
Maggie Cheung or not, I didn't expect much out of this film. But I was quite pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. For one, to get someone to play themselves in a lead role in a fictional film (Jackie Chan films and Roy Rogers aside;) is usually a risky thing to do. But Cheung fits in beautifully, and is so charming that she is obviously perfectly cast.
The film is in English and French, and even though the French is subtitled, I think it's easier to get caught up in the flow of the film if you understand both (I'm fluent in French and didn't have a problem, but I can see where it might be overly distracting). Some scenes seemed particularly important for one to be constantly looking away from the action, so to speak.
The film was a little long, and some scenes probably could have been cut down or cut altogether, but it gives a good view into French film-making, especially the snobbish elitism that is apparently common in more intellectual/artistic film circles. It's hysterically funny at some points, and the characterization of the different crew members is brilliantly portrayed.
I especially loved the scene where Maggie Cheung gets into characters by actually prowling around as a cat burglar (though she throws away her booty;)
Overall: a tight, well done film. It drags just a bit at points, but strong acting and strong writing help to overcome such lags. A pleasant surprise and a fun film! 8/10.
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