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Irma Vep (Essential Edition)
Irma Vep
Essential Edition
Actors: Maggie Cheung, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Nathalie Richard, Bulle Ogier, Lou Castel
Director: Olivier Assayas
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama
UR     2008     1hr 36min

Hong Kong action diva Maggie Cheung (Ashes of Time Redux, In the Mood for Love) plays herself in Olivier Assayas' spiky satire of the French film industry. After seeing her in Johnny To's Heroic Trio, past-his-prime direct...  more »

     
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Movie Details

Actors: Maggie Cheung, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Nathalie Richard, Bulle Ogier, Lou Castel
Director: Olivier Assayas
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama
Studio: Zeitgeist Films
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
DVD Release Date: 12/09/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 1hr 36min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 11
Edition: Special Edition
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English, French

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Movie Reviews

Irma Vep or Eerma Wep? Who cares in this friendly, eccentric
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 01/28/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"What the world needs is a movie about producing a book. You know, the creative angst of the author as he tries to remember when to use "which" and when to use "that," the nasty arguments over choosing a typeface, the dust jacket tantrums about artistic integrity if both boobs are shown or just one, the cattiness of the editors and, perhaps most insightful, whether the proofreading will continue to be the night guard's responsibility during his dinner break or whether the delivery boy from the next door deli should be given a crack at it.

Until that movie is made, Irma Vep will have to do. Please note that elements of the plot are discussed but there are absolutely no spoilers here or in the movie. Irma Vep is a movie about making a movie and it's stuffed with angst, pettiness, tantrums, ego and confusion. Taken on one of its own terms -- is it any good just as a movie -- the answer in my opinion is a loud "yes." Forget all the inside cineaste stuff (it is French, after all) and you may find that Irma Vep is funny, not just clever. It's good-natured with a friendly performance by Hong Kong kung fu heroine Maggie Cheung playing herself. Most of all, it is so eccentric a movie I seldom could stop smiling.

Rene Vidal (Jean-Pierre Leaud), an aging New Wave director now well past his sell-by date, is planning a comeback. He'll re-make a long, long and long ago silent movie called Les Vampires, a movie about a gang of criminals who prowl and stalk. One of them, in a skin-tight black body suit and black mask, is named Irma Vep. She will be Vidal's inspiration. He has just the star in mind to play Irma...Maggie Cheung. Maggie, who doesn't speak French, shows up in Paris ready to work. Cast and crew snipe and argue in many mini-dramas. Vidal collapses. Cast and crew snipe and argue some more. Maggie, an outsider and quite taken by the black latex outfit she and the costume designer, Zoe (Nathalie Richard) picked up cheap at a Parisian sex shop, whiles away the time one night by creeping about her hotel wearing the suit. Like Irma Vep, Maggie sees things in the hallways and rooms, some worth taking, and then there is the nighttime rain and the high, outside fire escape leading up to the hotel's roof. All does not go well for the movie. Eventually Maggie leaves for New York to take a meeting with Ridley Scott.

Not much there, I know, except for director and writer Olivier Assayas' amusing style and Maggie Cheung's bemusement and lithe creeping. There is much pleasure in Assayas' take on movie making and movie people, but the pleasure for me comes from noticing how I came to rather enjoy and like all those behind-the-scenes groupies, workers and jerks. The dish, of course, is amusing. "Directors thrive on hypocrisy," says one. "Yeah," says another, "but sometimes they go overboard." The interview between Maggie and a young, intense film enthusiast is priceless...John Woo versus Jean-Luc Godard. The film enthusiast has strong opinions about both. Maggie doesn't.

Maggie Cheung gives a sweet center to this movie, but I liked just as much Nathalie Richard as Zoe, the lean, blonde, tentative, cigarette-smoking, girl-liking costume designer. She's past her prime if you're a teenage boy, but right at her peak if you're an adult of either sex.

Film lovers might enjoy one message. "Cinema is not magic. It's a technique and a science. A technique born of science and at the service of a will, the will of the workers to free themselves." Got that? Essayas manages to combine the idea of movies (popular entertainment) and film (a much more deadly serious concept of the movies) in a way that is eccentric and engaging. Film insiders and hopeful film insiders just might love this movie. Yet as funny and eccentric as Eerma Wep is, it's still just a movie by a talented director about making a movie. If you like movies and are relaxed about "film," I think you'll enjoy it.

This DVD issue by Zeitgeist has a very good picture."
Almost a really cool movie
Doran Steele | 07/10/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Irma Vep is a fictional behind-the-scenes film. Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung stars as Maggie Cheung, a Hong Kong actress starring in a French remake of an old silent film. The most interesting dynamic of this film are the interaction and tensions between these multiple layers. Cheung's character starts to have trouble differentiating between the role that she plays and reality. The director of the fictional French film chose the fictional Cheung because her previous Hong Kong work recommends her for the part; viewers of the film Irma Vep will also be influenced in what they think of the character because of films of the real-life Maggie Cheung (Super Cop) that they have presumably seen.

The main tension of the plot revolves around four main plot threads: the character Maggie Cheung seems to get too much into her Vampire-like cat burglar character, the formerly-great French director of the film seems to be going through a personal crisis and perhaps even a nervous breakdown, the rest of the crew--especially the assistant director--have trouble understanding the director's vision and the casting of Cheung in the lead role, and the costume director has a secret crush on Cheung. Irma Vep is an entertaining film about a film production that is in the process of unraveling under the strain of all of these tensions.

The film is interesting, but there are problems in the execution. I would have liked to have seen more of an exploration of the plot threads that I described above. The film sets up interesting situations, but then leaves the viewer dangling. In one scene the Maggie Cheung character tries out an act of burglary, but how does that relate to everything else going on in the film? Is it simply a case of Cheung getting too much into character or does this have something to do with Cheung's strange reluctance to talk about her previous film production which apparently also suffered problems? The lesbian crush subplot doesn't really go anywhere--after watching the costume designer's crush on Cheung throughout the film, this culminates in Cheung's embarassed giggling when she finds out about the crush. There seems to be some kind parallel between the ways that the Cheung character is magnetically attractive both to the costume designer and the director--maybe this even has something to do with the vampire-like attributes of the character that Cheung's character is playing, but again the film makers hint at this without developing it.

Overall I enjoyed the film. The open nature of the script allows different viewers to see different things. I can appreciate this, but I guess I would have like to have seen more of how these interesting situations played out rather than just settling for an interesting setup where the viewer can imagine what it means and where it will go."