Irma Vep is a film about film-making, about a Hong Kong action star by the name of real-life beauty, Maggie Cheung, who arrives in Paris to do a remake of a 1915 French film about the French underworld. This is a very ambitious film, as the camera is always investigating various ways of shooting Maggie. The film was a little long, and some scenes probably could have been cut down or cut altogether, but it gives a good view into French film-making, something that isn’t explored at all on this particular website. It uses documentary style filmmaking to tell it’s slice of life realism, alongside the imaginative and transportative storymaking that gives this film many dimensions to explore.
Irma Vep is also a tender elegy to a time in which movies were actually viewed as art. It is sad to say, but alot of movies are all about the money and less about the labor of love. Nevertheless, Maggie tries her hardest to fit in, even though she does not speak any French, and she tries to get a good grip of the character that she intends to cast. Meanwhile, the director is having problems keeping himself emotionally together and the film’s future becomes jeopardized. With only a hint of a plot, Irma Vep looks more like a series or sketches, or even a documentary, sustained by nervous energy. Everything is relative. If you have not seen and do not own Irma Vep then you owe it to yourself to make up for that loss.
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. A close look at the movie making process in France where a certain lack of coordination seems to be the rule, where a director launches the movie making only based on a whim. And in this case, it’s the idea of having Maggie Cheung play the main role of a character in a remake of a 1915 silent movie. 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.
All in all, it is always a pleasure to see a film that I am not used to seeing. Maggie Cheung gives a sweet center to this movie, and she is very easy on the eyes. Her past acting experiences featured her athletic abilities in martial arts movies. Her casting in the French director’s remake of the silent movie about vampires is her chance to break the mold and casting stereotype. I am glad I was able to see another side of her. If you choose to view this film, you’ll be rewarded with a film of some insight into the human condition, charm, and yes, a bit of melancholy. This is directed by Olivier Assayas who is extremely talented and has always shown a keen eye for sharp dialog and here he succeeds in satirizing the movie making process with a French flair. Can’t knock this one, I recommend it to all who read this.