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France, 1996 (MIFF 1997, International)

Director: Olivier Assayas

Olivier Assayas made his name with serious, emotionally weighty works such as L'eau Froide (MIFF 95). With Irma Vep Assayas lightens the mood, proving to also be a skilled director of comedy. After meeting Maggie Cheung, one of Hong Kong's most popular actors, Assayas insisted on constructing a film for and around her. Cheung plays herself, arriving in Paris to recreate the jewel thief Irma Vep in a remake of the French silent serial film, Les Vampires.

The director of this film-within-a-film, Rene Vidal, is undergoing an emotional breakdown and has little control over his production crew. Zoe, the costume designer is in constant conflict with the production assistant, Maite, and is at the same time trying to seduce Maggie, who speaks no French and has to make do with the crew's broken English.

With constant satirical reference to the French film industry - petty rivalries and myopic arro­gance characterise the depictions of the cast and crew - combined with a documentary-style approach - the film was written in 10 days and shot in less than a month - Irma Vep is a sponta­neous, insightful and immensely enjoyable film.

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