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French filmmaker René Vidal was once a renowned director, but most see his career on a quick downward slide based on his last several films. In Paris, he is just starting to film his latest movie, a remake of Les vampires (1915), and has hired Hong Kong based Chinese actress Maggie Cheung as the title lead, "Irma Vep" (an anagram for "vampire"), despite she knowing no French and she not being an obvious choice to most. Maggie has never worked with Vidal before and knows little about his movies, but many of his primarily French crew are part of his regular stable. As such, Maggie may become isolated among the cast and crew, unless there are those who bring her into their English conversations, they who may have somewhat ulterior motives in doing so. There are also factions within the cast and crew, who, based on their history, have a poisoned sense of what is going on. With Vidal, he is dealing with some personal issues while he tries to regain his film making form. He may transfer his... 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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