Irma Vep

98 minutes 2013

Olivier Assayas wrote and directed this dark, brittle French comedy (1996) about a film company remaking Louis Feuillade's silent 1916 serial Les Vampires. This unexpected masterpiece was assembled so quickly that it has an improvisational feel and a surrealist capacity to access its own unconscious—traits it shares with Feuillade's work. A once prestigious French director of the 60s (Jean-Pierre LĂ©aud) casts Maggie Cheung (playing herself) as villainess Irma Vep (an anagram for vampire), and his sexual infatuation with her is matched by that of the costume designer who escorts her around Paris (Jacques Rivette regular Nathalie Richard). The feverish pace of the shooting seems to unleash bad vibes as well as desire, and Assayas follows the delirium as if he were at the center of a hurricane. What emerges is a memorable look at contemporary life in general and international low-budget filmmaking in particular. In English and subtitled French.

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