Irma Vep - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Irma Vep Reviews

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½ October 26, 2016
Because I'm prone to believing that any moviemaking experience is as enjoyable as the film that ultimately sits in front of me, disheartening are features revolving around the making of movies wherein it's decided that not every production is partial to imitating some sort of quasi-heaven. Sometimes personalities clash and sometimes filming a certain scene is agonizing rather than passion-fueled - sometimes, expressing yourself through your craft of choice can become a job, or, even worse, a chore.
But whereas the best movie about moviemaking ever made, François Truffaut's magnificent "Day for Night" (1973), brought a certain sort of romantic charm to the above mentioned cinematic chaos, Olivier Assayas's weirder "Irma Vep" (1996) conjoins New Wave imitating nonchalantness and blatant surrealism that makes it one of the most coercive films about filmmaking ever made. With one eye on industry satire and another on reality blurring fantasticality, Assayas's vision is broad but focused in its delivery. It's faux cinéma vérité that increasingly benefits from its unwillingness to conform.
Taking place in the mid-1990s, a time during which the French film industry was threatened with extinction due to the mounting popularity of North American action imports, "Irma Vep" follows the doomed production of "Les Vampires," a remake of Louis Feuillade's famed 1916 serial of the name. Helmed by René Vidal (Jean-Pierre Léaud), a has-been, growingly inept master of the silver screen, the feature is planned to be shot in the exact same style as the original series, photographed in black-and-white and produced as a silent movie for the modern age.
Everyone involved has accepted that 1996's "Les Vampires" is going to be a disaster, especially after Vidal proves to be even more temperamental than his reputation has suggested and especially after he inexplicably hires Hong Kong action star Maggie Cheung (as herself) to play the film's heroine. See her in a catsuit, though, and your doubts melt away - it's Vidal's inability to keep his head on straight for more than thirty seconds that concerns us.
It'd all be very depressing if the tone Assayas were going for weren't so sardonic, but since his "Irma Vep" is so witty and so knowing, unavoidable is the being seduced by the film's cheeky self-referentiality. Pointed without being mean-spirited, it's scrumptious parody able to bring auteur culture back down to Earth all the while maintaining easygoing perceptiveness.
But because the film's so relaxed in its style and its brand of humor, watching it without trying to spot certain, specific studio jabs still warrants it as a lovable moviegoing experience. One doesn't have to much know about the French movie industry, the cult fanbase that circles around the original "Les Vampires," the career of the always luminous Maggie Cheung, or the homages to the New Wave (that Léaud himself was a seminal figure of) to appreciate Assayas's deconstruction of the filmmaking process. Blasé but cutting, "Irma Vep" is satire that prefers the stance of slice-of-life offhandedness to the going-for-the-throat mentality of "S.O.B." (1981), and that breeziness arguably makes it even sharper.
½ January 24, 2016
Those that saw Olivier Assayas latest film (last year's The Clouds of Sils Maria), will notice plenty of thematic similarities in this earlier work. Also a surreal look at the film industry, Irma Vep takes the well-worn concept of dropping a foreigner into Paris (did Henry Miller start this trope with Tropic of Cancer?), and letting their alienation examine the city's importance, problems, and singularity. A meta-film that displays film production and film making, Irma Vep was meant to comment on the issues that plagued French films during the 90s, but much of its subject matter is still topical today, and its references to its country's previous filmmakers makes it an ideal film to screen for any French Cinema course. Assuredly directed, and provocative in its ambiguities, Irma Vep is a highlight for 90s French cinema.
November 1, 2015
Nobody did an exceptional job, but the pace and narration are so natural that it really caught me. Olivier Assauas is a hard-core cinephile. Another film that seamlessly interconnects the real world with the world of cinema--probably the ultimate dream of every filmmaker.

Maggie Maggie, how can you be this amazing?

20151026 @ Anthology.
October 16, 2015
Irma Vep isn't nearly as probing as it thinks it is, content to make its simplistic criticism of french cinema plain instead of opting for subtlety. Its rushed production is obvious as well; the whole thing feels remarkably slapdash, relying on the charm of Maggie Cheung to enliven the lackluster material driving the project. This kind of thing isn't remotely new (François Truffaut's Day for Night touches on the same exact themes with more success, infusing genuine heart into its backstage antics as opposed to Irma Vep's adherence to an intentionally awkward, cold level of detachment) and this fact renders Assayas's film moderately redundant, a mildly amusing bit of navel-gazing that could've been more had more care gone into its construction.
Super Reviewer
½ December 28, 2013
Style over substance, but it works. And just as well, because there is not much of an actual storyline.
Actress Maggie travels to France to star in a remake of an old movie. The movie is about the making of that movie, which never really pans out. It's interesting and Maggie is well suited to the role. I also enjoyed her relationship with Zoe. The "completed" movie at the end is interesting too.
November 27, 2013
gr8 movie within a movie reminds me of truffaut's 'day for night'
October 6, 2013
This is a movie that one will either love or hate. I doubt that there are few people who will view it and find it to be "ok" -- it demands a reaction. Filmed in 1996, Olivier Assayas' thoughtful cinematic essay on 'the art of French Film' is so cool it almost burns. From the music on the soundtrack (Sonic Youth / Luna / Ry Cooder) , the slickly planned "verite-ish" camera work and the kink costume - this movie is totally late 1990's chic cool. But there is much more going on here that being cool. Assayas is exploring the past, current and future state of French Cinema. The "plot" of the film is an older and emotionally fragile filmmaker attempting to remake the historic and cinematically-relavent Louis Feuillade and his iconic silent film serial, LES VAMPIRES. ...A work that you will recognize upon site even if you've not seen any of it.

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.
Super Reviewer
½ June 28, 2013
Shades of the later Tristram Shandy and earlier Truffaut films, we have the story of a film within a film and all the drama that occurs outside of where the camera is shooting. While good at times, it often feels lost.
April 24, 2013
Fans of silent films, old French films and film production seen to enjoy it. I couldn't resist because it has Cheung in a catsuit. Maggie's great, especially when she's "slinking around the corridors of her hotel in her sheath of shiny black latex to the dissonant chords of Sonic Youth". The entire movie seems like a bland "making of" documentary. Good experimental short at the end, but mostly it's a mid-90's "behind the scenes" of a film where the director loses his mind and the lead is recast.
December 30, 2012
Directed by Olivier Assayas, (Cold Water (1994), Boarding Gate (2007) and Summer Hours (2008)), this is a very offbeat comedy-drama which takes a candid look at filmmaking and turns it on it's head more than once or twice. It was meant as a comment on French cinema in the mid-1990's, and what was going on, but it owes a debt of gratitude to François Truffaut's Day For Night (1973), which Assayas cites as heavy inspiration. It has Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung (playing herself) coming to France to act in a remake of Les Vampires (1915), being reimagined by director René Vidal (Jean-Pierre Léaud). Cheung will be playing the part of Irma Vep (an anagram of vampire), who spends most of the film remake dressed in a tight, black, latex rubber catsuit. However, as time goes on, Cheung finds herself becoming Irma Vep, and finds herself going out acreoss the rooftops of Paris in the catsuit, meanwhile the film's costume designer Zoe (Nathalie Richard) and director Vidal develop love crushes on Cheung as Irma Vep. It's a very original way of doing a film within a film, and the film switches back and forth between French and English at the flick of a switch, and it has some weird montages too, but it's a look about the nightmares directors face when making films and the horror at having to compromise. Assayas does good with the material and it's a good way of doing a remake, show it from another perspective, pull and and show it being made.
½ December 6, 2012
some want this movie to fail. some think this is the best under the radar indie film... i'm not sure where i stand. i do think they pull of some things rather well. i think it addresses in a good way -- certain trends in cinema that tend to admire asian movies out of novelty rather than on the strength of their own merits. and... you know, it's kinda neato... the edits, the aimlessness, but on another day, it could all be quite annoying. i think maggie cheung was definitely the right lady for the role though...
½ August 2, 2012
"I feel like I'm disappearing, getting smaller everyday. But when I look in the mirror I'm Irma in everyway."
Super Reviewer
July 8, 2012
A director tries to remake Les Vampires.
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.
May 9, 2012
Olivier Assayas channels the great French New Wave directors of the 1960's and 70's in this stylish account of a declining film maker who is desperate to make his next film, and the people involved.
November 13, 2011
A movie about filmaking...stars one of my all-time favourite actresses, Maggie Cheung.(Hero)
February 17, 2011
What a cool movie! Even more so if you're a film nerd.
February 8, 2011
Too cool for school.
½ January 23, 2011
A wonderful tribute to filmmaking that could only be made in France, it has delightful performances and a low-budget style -- like the film it parodies -- which work beautifully.
½ December 31, 2010
Lovely Maggie Cheung plays herself and does it magnificently well. â?Irma Vepâ? is an art movie about making a French art movie. The story is formed as Cheung interacts with the rest of the cast and crew on and off set and cultural differences become apparent. The movie is a comedy, but has a lot of substance to it, as well as some deeply melancholicundertones. This is a very small story, but fascinating and well realized.
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