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Irma Vep (1996)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Drama | 30 April 1997 (USA)
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1:22 | Trailer

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A Chinese movie actress, in France to star in a remake of "Les Vampires", finds petty intrigues and clashing egos on the set.

Director:

Olivier Assayas

Writer:

Olivier Assayas
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2 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Maggie Cheung ... Maggie Cheung
Jean-Pierre Léaud ... René Vidal
Nathalie Richard ... Zoé
Antoine Basler Antoine Basler ... Journalist
Nathalie Boutefeu ... Laure
Alex Descas ... Desormeaux
Dominique Faysse Dominique Faysse ... Maïté
Arsinée Khanjian ... L'américaine
Bernard Nissile Bernard Nissile ... Markus
Olivier Torres Olivier Torres ... Ferdinand / Moreno
Bulle Ogier ... Mireille
Lou Castel ... José Mirano
Jacques Fieschi Jacques Fieschi ... Roland
Estelle Larrivaz Estelle Larrivaz ... La standardiste
Balthazar Clémenti Balthazar Clémenti ... Robert, assistant
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Storyline

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 Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

France

Language:

French | English

Release Date:

30 April 1997 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Ирма Веп See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$191,164, 10 August 1997
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Dacia Films,Canal+ See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Black and White (movie extracts)| Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The title is the anagram of "vampire". See more »

Goofs

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 »

Connections

Features Classe de lutte (1969) See more »

Soundtracks

Soukora
Written by Ali Farka Touré
Performed by Ali Farka Touré and Ry Cooder
Courtesy of Hannibal Records, a Rykodisc Label and World Circuit Ltd
See more »

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User Reviews

Maggie Cheung and the embers of the French Avant-Garde
8 October 2004 | by jdm101See all my reviews

Irma Vep is a film about film-making, an insightful and disturbing film which delivers some beautiful voyeuristic glimpses of vampirism, realist cinema, gritty black-and-white cine-retro and the old men who were once the chic of the French avant-garde film clique.

IMDb says: "Rene Vidal, a director in decline, decides to remake Louis Feuillade's silent serial Les Vampires" but this summary does not mention the real star of the film - Hong Kong kung-fu actress Maggie Cheung, playing herself. She is perfect as the exotic object, the ephemeral other, the object of desire who finds herself at the centre of the film's obsessive and sexually driven visual vortex.

In the privacy of her hotel room, Maggie Cheung zips herself into a full-body black latex catsuit which is going to be her vampire costume on the film set the next day. Maybe she is just getting into character, or maybe she shares something of the director's fascination with nocturnal life... predatory sexuality... visual fixation... the bound female form... anyway, the film really comes to life as she creeps through the hotel, her haunting feline eyes piercing through the spooky-sexy costume... the suspense here is that she is enacting her own vampire fantasy, of her own accord, not under the director's gaze. Maggie Cheung, all alone, on the roof, in the rain, exploring her own version of a male fantasy sequence. This is an unforgettable moment in art-house cinema.

The film really does justice to its themes, with the male characters degenerating from visionaries into voyeurs, and the female characters showing real depth in their willingness to accommodate the male gaze without losing their savvy post-fem powers. If you are a predictable guy like me, you will love the French-Asian grrrl power, which gives the film a pulse.

The theme of visual obsession is presented very well: the director is shouting, the cameras are rolling, and Maggie Cheung, in her catsuit, is ready to suck blood. In these moments she is bound but free, powerless but in control, objectified but liberated. I suppose this makes the film contentious and provocative, but I thought the message was very clear.

Without spoiling the end of the film: the last five minutes of Irma Vep is totally unique. You will never see another film which ends like this one. I can only describe it as a profoundly futile gesture, an act of great passion and impotence, and a brilliant moment in Lettrist art. It is Rene Vidal's last stand, a terrible but beautiful moment caught on celluloid: the work of a madman? a savant? a genius? you can decide, but I am sure you will agree that Irma Vep does a lot more than just scratch the surface of modern film art.

If you like Irma Vep, check out Shadow Of The Vampire as well.


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