Irma Vep Reviews
Maggie Maggie, how can you be this amazing?
20151026 @ Anthology.
Feuillade's films were both very French and yet universally appealing. LES VAMPIRES was not afraid of being entertaining for the sake of entertainment but it was also stylized and oddly erotic. And, Feuillade's work remains interestingly current in both look and plot. Assayas film captures a confused and chaotic film crew attempting to both please their director and push against him. The characters, including a particularly annoying TV Journalist, hold the production in contempt for several reasons: it is not commercial enough to make money, it is being made for the French Intelligentsia and more than a few feel it odd that the director has chosen an Asian actress (played with natural brilliance and beauty by Maggie Cheung) in an Iconic Role of French Cinema. As another filmmaker notes, why cast a Chinese woman to play a character who was created to represent The French Lower Class?
The film gives its final punch when we, along with the cast, see the small amount of edited footage created by the fictional director. The small bit of footage is inspiring, artistic, disturbing and something all together new -- and, yes, cool.
If you love Cinema, and you have a particular fondness for French Nouvelle Vague -- you will love Olivier Assayas slick and totally cool meditation of the state of French Cinema.
I'm not really sure what I saw. On the one hand, I see some clever satire about French film here, especially with the interviewer complaining about intellectual film in an intellectual film, Rene's mumblingly intense focus on process, and the costume designer using a bondage mask. On the other hand, I think one would have to know the history behind Les Vampires in order to be in on the joke, and I'm not sure what to make of the romance between Maggie and Zoe. And what is going one with Maggie Cheung playing herself? Once again, I feel like there's a reason for this choice, but it isn't communicated with any clarity.
Overall, I left this film confused and not in a good way.
But that is the catch, it is a contrast of the mundane and surreal inflection of style. It has an appeal, but nothing to be overwhelmed about. Maggie is good and the director and costume girl are good, but nothing seems to matter in this movie except the references to the old movie and how it seems to taint the mundane world. This movie just sort of sits there and points to good things while you stare forward.
Maggie Cheung was just fantastic - serene and professional but increasingly absorbed in the odd role of "Irma Vep". So much so that the role, or at least the black latex catsuit, takes over away from the set, and her scene as Irma in her hotel is one of the movie's two highlights. The rest of the movie is is fascinating, and used as a vehicle for questioning where French cinema was going in the 1990s. This is brought out particularly well when Maggie is interviewed by a cynical French journalist. But somehow the sub-plots ,revolving around the tensions between crew members, don't match or illuminate the central theme. Overall, it's a movie well worth seeing for the star performance by Maggie Cheung but ultimately it's an experiment that doesn't quite come off - but you must stay with it to see the final 5 minutes.