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Irma Vep (1996) - Olivier Assayas

Related: French cinema - Louis Feuillade - Asia


    Irma Vep (1996) - Olivier Assayas [Amazon.com]
    In the tradition of films about filmmaking, Irma Vep takes its own special place among such films as Fellini's . A has-been director decides to remake the silent French serial film Les Vampires starring a Hong Kong action film superstar. The production is falling behind schedule and its star, Maggie Cheung (who plays herself), finds herself an outsider with the film's crew save for a woman costumer (Nathalie Richard) who has a crush on her. Rene the director (Jean-Pierre Leaud) cast Maggie after viewing one of her many martial-arts fantasy films. Although he finds her perfect for the part of the jewel thief in Les Vampires, the rest of the crew cannot see the reasons for casting Maggie beyond her beauty and how she looks in her tight-fitting latex costume. Rene's vision is soon lost on everyone and he suffers a mental breakdown. The film is reassigned to Jose (Lou Castel), a seemingly more commanding director (although he takes the job because his welfare is about to run out), whose first decision is to fire Maggie. Irma Vep is presented as a comedy, but at its heart lies an examination of the art and craft of filmmaking. In a clever turn, Maggie creeps around her hotel getting into character, in essence remaking Irma Vep for real-life director Olivier Assayas. Assayas wrote the film in 10 days and shot the film in a month after meeting Maggie Cheung at a film festival--a fascinating case of life imitating art... or is it the other way around? --Shannon Gee, Amazon.com

    Irma Vep is a 1996 film directed by the notorious French director Olivier Assayas, which stars Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung who plays herself in a story about the many disasters that ensue when a middle-aged French film maker (played by François Truffaut's actor Jean-Pierre Léaud) decides to remake Louis Feuillade's classic silent serial Les vampires.

    Cheung plays the heroine Irma Vep. She spends most of the film dressed in a tight, black, PVC suit, defending her directors' odd choices to hostile crew members and journalists. As the film progresses, the plot mirrors the disorientation felt by the film's director.

    In the 1915 original serial, written and directed by Louis Feuillade, Irma Vep (an anagram for vampire) was played by French silent film actress Musidora (1889-1957). Parts of the film depict set-related incidents that echo scenes in Truffaut's La nuit americaine (English title: Day for night). Like Truffaut, Assayas was a critic for influential French film magazine Cahiers du cinema.

    Assayas married Cheung in 1998. They divorced in 2001. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irma_Vep [Dec 2005]

Les Vampires (1915) - Louis Feuillade

  1. Les Vampires (1915) - Louis Feuillade [Amazon.com]
    This legendary seven-hour silent French serial, one of the earliest and most original gangster films, combines realism and fantasy. Written and directed by Louis Feuillade, Les Vampires concerns an intrepid reporter's pursuit of a strange gang of jewel thieves terrorizing Paris. The gang ambitiously seeks political, psychological, and sexual domination of the city's social elite, with the seductive Irma Vep (an anagram of "vampire") as its brazen leader. While slow going at first, the 10-part serial becomes more and more fascinating with each episode, thanks in large part to the alluring Musidora as Irma Vep. Because of her many guises and frightful charms, she truly becomes a vampire of sorts. Feuillade achieves a subversive, nightmarish atmosphere amid the everyday goings-on of the city. Filmed on the streets and back alleys of World War I Paris, the 1915 picture was a huge commercial success, though temporarily banned by Paris's chief of police for glamorizing crime. --Bill Desowitz, Amazon.com

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