Ella is a divorced Chinese American taxi driver who spends her days ferrying people around the roads of Sausalito, San Francisco. After work, she spends time with her 8-year old son, Scott.... See full summary »
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
...In which Olivier Assayas tries out a bunch of different ideas with no cohesion
This is a very solid film, make no mistake, but it tends to play more like a testing ground for various elements of Olivier Assayas' overall style, particularly those which he would later explore more fully in his later masterpiece "Demonlover", than any sort of cohesive narrative statement. It's not very often that a film strikes me as not having enough of a plot, but in the case of this there did seem to be a certain irrelevance to it all. There's nothing really new about the "making a movie" movie, and this doesn't add much to the mix, although i do think it is well done for what it is, and occasionally even approaches a sort of proto-"Lost in Translation", with Paris standing in for Tokyo and Maggie Cheung's Asian "otherness" replacing Bill Murray's fish-out-of-water Americanness. But the film is never really focused enough to compare in any significant way to that film. "Irma Vep" really only comes alive when Assayas gets away from his nagging tendency towards a certain French talkiness and indulges in the moments of pure visual cinema that make up the other half of his general approach (and which seem to be invested with much more enthusiasm here) , such as the scene scored to Sonic Youth's "Tunic" (another foreshadowing of "Demonlover"). Certainly he does have a way with capturing pretty little images of neon lights reflecting through car windows and things like that, enough that I can acknowledge he is definitely a talented filmmaker, but within this film he never quite finds the correct way to integrate his little artistic flourishes into the whole, and overall the film feels more like a collection of separate ideas than a cohesive statement of any kind.
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