Irma Vep (Assayas, 1996)

“But the predators on whom Assayas focuses—all working on the film or in the twilight zone of the production’s fringes—are vampires in every sense of the word, nocturnal animals feeding on human flesh.”

– Jonathan Rosenbaum on the characters of  Irma Vep

Olivier Assayas’ Irma Vep plays like 90’s version of Truffaut’s Day For Night, a frantic angst-ridden behind the scenes film about the angst-ridden process of film-making. Rosenbaum’s wonderful insights speak to the film’s connective quality between character and subject matter, hinting at the destructive nature of  stress, professional jealousy, and artistic madness occurring on multiple levels. Still, the film feels light on substance even though it’s dealing with complex confrontations between artistic expression and mainstream success. This whimsy that seemingly overtakes Irma Vep stems from Assayas’ determination to deconstruct the seriousness of French Cinema and the global film community’s impressions of his country’s predisposition to creating self indulgent philosophical meanderings. Maggie Cheung’s charming and inoffensive heroine feels slightly oblivious, relishing each moment in transcending ways.

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