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Irma Vep (Essential Edition) (Bilingual) [Import]

Maggie Cheung , Jean-Pierre Léaud , Olivier Assayas    Unrated   DVD
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 33.48
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In the tradition of films about filmmaking, Irma Vep takes its own special place among such films as Fellini's . A has-been director decides to remake the silent French serial film Les Vampires starring a Hong Kong action film superstar. The production is falling behind schedule and its star, Maggie Cheung (who plays herself), finds herself an outsider with the film's crew save for a woman costumer (Nathalie Richard) who has a crush on her. Rene the director (Jean-Pierre Leaud) cast Maggie after viewing one of her many martial-arts fantasy films. Although he finds her perfect for the part of the jewel thief in Les Vampires, the rest of the crew cannot see the reasons for casting Maggie beyond her beauty and how she looks in her tight-fitting latex costume. Rene's vision is soon lost on everyone and he suffers a mental breakdown. The film is reassigned to Jose (Lou Castel), a seemingly more commanding director (although he takes the job because his welfare is about to run out), whose first decision is to fire Maggie. Irma Vep is presented as a comedy, but at its heart lies an examination of the art and craft of filmmaking. In a clever turn, Maggie creeps around her hotel getting into character, in essence remaking Irma Vep for real-life director Olivier Assayas. Assayas wrote the film in 10 days and shot the film in a month after meeting Maggie Cheung at a film festival--a fascinating case of life imitating art... or is it the other way around? --Shannon Gee

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Leaping latex lesbian vampyres, Rocky! Oct. 21 2003
I truly fail to understand those who consider this a serious cinematic masterpiece. It pales in comparison, for instance, with other Maggie Cheung vehicles such as "In the Mood for Love" or "Song of the Exile". Indeed, one of the four rating stars is purely for the presence of Maggie as something at least close to her off screen persona (ok, I admit to a bit of a crush here :-).
On the other hand, it is not the abysmal drek others rate it. The plot is drolly amusing, along the lines of a mid-level American TV sitcom. And as one who has been in similar situations a few times, the depiction of Maggie's perplexity and detachment when thrust into making a film in Paris while speaking no French rings true.
The side-plot of Zoe, the costumier, who develops a crush on Maggie while fitting her with the black latex catsuit in a Paris sex shop, is amusing and well handled. Nathalie Richard is just right (and dang cute) as Zoe, a grown woman regressed to breathless teenage puppy love.
Maggie wanders through it all with gracious aplomb as everything and everybody is falling apart around her, intrigued by Zoe's interest though ultimately declining.
For those who haven't read the previous hundred reviews, a brief summary: Maggie Cheung, playing herself, arrives in Paris on a movie set in chaos. The director has chosen her to play the part of a cat burglar (Irma Vep) in a remake of a classic silent film, on the basis of obsessive viewing of Cheung's Hong Kong action films (I think it was Heroic Trio he was watching). [Real life director Arrayas was Cheung's boyfriend, later husband. Art imitating life, or vice versa?] Maggie is the calm center of a swirl of studio politics, backbiting and romantic advances (male and female). She goes to a late night party, and one night dreams (?
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2.0 out of 5 stars Hmm... April 3 2003
Seeing this movie has left me flabbergasted. I guess it's one of those either-you-love-it-or-hate-it movies. But let me be objective about this. It comes across as a masochistic satire on contemporary filmmaking, ridiculing on all points the folly of churning out meaningless movies filled with gore, violence, and Schwarzenegger. The storyline is simple: Director wants to shoot movie, crew is unstable, everything falls apart... and voila... the 5-minute ending redeems the 2-hour jargon that just took place before your eyes. But you can't beat having Maggie Cheung running around in that latex suit. Overall acting was precise, intense, and really, you can't ask for more. There is lot of handheld camera movement, so make sure to take your motion sickness pills. I sat watching this movie flicker in front of me. One hour later, I was still waiting for something good to happen. I am somewhat disappointed, I guess. I feel that a lot of time has been wasted on cinebabble. The ending's good, though. All in all, I'd rather have watched 20 minutes worth of the film than in its entirety.
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1.0 out of 5 stars The movie sucks the life out of you. Nov. 15 2002
By A Customer
Unbearably pretentious rot. *Irma Vep* has nothing going for it, unless you consider the admittedly enjoyable spectacle of Maggie Cheung tromping around in skin-tight black latex. It's shot in the form of a "documentary" about a French re-do of the silent-era film serial *Les Vampires*. First of all, why would anyone want to remake *Les Vampires*? -- second of all, why would anyone want to watch a documentary about the making of it? It's unpalatable any way you look at it. Further, director Olivier Assayas embarrasses us by having Jean-Pierre Leaud ("Antoine Doinel" from Truffaut's *The 400 Blows*) attempt to speak English: the result is a mumbling disaster. It's as if Assayas is purposefully trying to denigrate the entire French cinematic tradition, from the silent classics (Arletty is invoked, of course; no lustre rubs off) to the New Wave. Meanwhile, Maggie Cheung looks mystified and somehwat irritated at the proceedings. The ending, by the way, is one of the worst I've ever seen.
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Well, are we all sitty comfybold on our bottys? Then I'll begin.
Olivier Assayas is such a great director with such an astonishing body of work, that as good as Irma Vep is, it is not one of his best films.
It is good enough that you really should buy it, if you have not already. However, beyond that, in my typical whiny, frustration-driven way, I am going to spend the balance of this essay on things you (we) cannot yet buy in the hopes that one of the smaller and more rational DVD companies will rectify this. None of the following are even on video in France, at least based on the Amazon.com.fr website.
Une Nouvelle Vie is a brilliant character study. This film reconfirmed to me to the great and subtle talent of Judith Godreche, who has never let me down since. (Of course, I did not see the DiCaprio foolishness she was in because that would have broken the No-DiCaprios Allowed rule.) Ms. Godreche plays a complex and multi-layered character faced with a deepening mystery as she tries to find a father she has never known and is stalled by her half-sister and her father's lawyer who is apparently friendly, but clearly has some agenda of his own. The use of the camera is simply staggering. The camera circles the protagonists, alternating their points of view as the psychological games proceed. This same effect was so very irritating in Branagh's Frankenstein because there it served no purpose.
L'Eau Froide is a 60's period piece which introduced me to the work of Virginie Ledoyen. A simply plotted story of disaffected youth, which in less talented hands would have been cliched, is confidently and masterfully turned into something much more.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, fun, original, challenging, if not quite a masterpiece
I feel downright churlish for not going completely crazy for this funny/sad look at movie-making -- specifically the rather absurd, doomed remaking of a real French classic, by an... Read more
Published on June 15 2011 by K. Gordon
4.0 out of 5 stars Quelque chose de different
The French do self-reflexive cinema better than we do. This tale of a has-been director attempting a comeback with a re-make of a silent French serial (and using a non-French... Read more
Published on March 7 2004 by Gregor von Kallahann
4.0 out of 5 stars Notions in different directions...
Maggie Cheung, as herself, comes to Paris to partake in a remake of Louis Feuillade's Les Vampires as Irma Vep. Read more
Published on Nov. 17 2002 by Kim Anehall
4.0 out of 5 stars A great movie for the latex rubber enthusiast
Irma Vep is a bizarre story about a young Chinese actress who plays the title character in a remake of the 1915 silent French film Les Vampires. Read more
Published on Sept. 15 2002 by E. Mueller
2.0 out of 5 stars Not exactly a waste of time, but not great either.
I try to see every french film that gets released in the states, so I was really ready to like Irma Vep. Read more
Published on May 1 2002 by Erik Ketzan
5.0 out of 5 stars vampire
This is a film within a film setup. If you make it all the way through the film I think you will be pleasantly surprised. This movie is a clever disguise for a modernist tale. Read more
Published on Feb. 8 2002 by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars Pullleeezzzz
Mediocre entertainment, major navel-gazing , poor DVD package. The only part of this movie that grabbed my attention is when a Gen X French movie critic, hip and au courant,... Read more
Published on Jan. 15 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars Maggie Cheung is fantastic
A very sweet, engaging, watchable movie. This is a portrait of what goes on behind the scenes during the making of a lower-budget film. It takes place in Paris. Read more
Published on Oct. 23 2001 by ADAM STANHOPE
2.0 out of 5 stars This was woeful
Very rarely do I finish a film and think it was a waste of my time. Unfortunately Irma Vep was one of those instances. Read more
Published on Oct. 9 2001 by Robert Cossaboon
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