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
The idea for the film was born out of an attempted collaboration among Assayas, Claire Denis, and Atom Egoyan, who wanted to experiment with the situation of a foreigner in Paris. See more »
After René says, "respect the silence" to Maggie, he speaks to a woman and takes a drink from a big plastic Coke bottle. He screws the cap on, then hands her the bottle. She turns around, and the cap is missing. See more »
...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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