MIFF 2014 – Irma Vep (1996)

Director: Olivier Assayas
Starring: Maggie Cheung, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Nathalie Richard, Nathalie Boutefeu, Antoine Basler

Maggie Cheung stars as herself in this odd duck of a movie about a remake of a silent film that is falling apart even before she arrives with a neurotic director René Vidal (Jean-Pierre Léaud), the crew abandoning the main star as they are so keen to leave the set and the costumer Zoe (Nathalie Richard) who has a crush on her.

This film seems like a mockumentary even before they were popular as it is hard to work out which scenes are real and which are part of the movie. The fake interview that Maggie Cheung has during the film seems to be her telling her real thoughts about the directors and films mentioned.

My favourite part is at the party where the host is talking to Maggie in broken English and asks her if she likes girls. From her reaction it looks like they really asked her and she didn’t know it was going to be used, or Maggie Cheung is an even better actor than I have realized.

The whole film is more of a character study and a statement on how the film industry in France was operating at the time. The director in the film has had past success, but seems to be floundering and they have to bring in a replacement. The journalist in the interview scene is very down on traditional French cinema and praises the action genre.

Maggie Cheung really did not know French when she first came to work on this movie and ended up marrying Olivier Assayas after the movie. The number one reason to watch this film is if you are a Maggie Cheung completist and want to see her walking around in a latex cat suit. Any reason to watch Maggie Cheung is good enough for me and the clips shown from Heroic Trio in the movie are most welcome.

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