Irma Vep


"...I had a feeling that Maggie was gonna strap on some diving gear and jump in the water at any moment."

- Alvin George

Irma Vep (1996)

Director: Olivier Assayas

Producer: Georges Benayoun

Writer: Olivier Assayas

Cast: Maggie Cheung, Jean-Pierre Leaud, Nathalie Richard, Antoine Basler

Running Time: 99 min.

Plot: An out-of-favor French director hires a Hong Kong actress to star as a slinky cat in his remake of a silent black-and-white vampire serial. Maggie Cheung plays herself in this critically acclaimed film.


ALVIN GEORGE'S REVIEW: I have to admit that "Irma Vep" is quite a weird movie. I'm not used to seeing French films, and this one belongs with the various art-house movies that have popped up over the years on channels like IFC. Fortunately, Maggie Cheung (or at least her character in this movie) doesn't know any French, so part of the film is in English. I hear that Maggie is supposed to be one of Hong Kong's finest actresses now. However, all that too many Americans seem to see her as is the pouty, hot-tempered girlfriend in various Jackie Chan movies who yells some equivalent of, "I hate you!" (Well, at least in dubbed versions I saw.) Since I don't speak French and I rarely see French films, the film's plot was a little hard to follow. I forgot why Maggie befriends this French chick who looks uncannily like Rosanna Arquette (the girl who was mistaken for Madonna in "Desperately Seeking Susan.") A key outfit worn by Cheung in the movie is a latex catsuit that is black, tight, and shiny. There are other girls in the movie who wear the same kind of outfit. They uncannily like scuba-diving wet suits, so much so that I had a feeling that Maggie was gonna strap on some diving gear and jump in the water at any moment. Unfortunately, Ms. Cheung is seen smoking cigarettes, something I don't think is sexy. What is also interesting about the film is the part when the filmakers film a behind-the-scenes documentary. Maggie talks about working with Jackie Chan, about how John Woo seems to prefer men over women, and how few French films get to be seen in Hong Kong. There's even a clip from Ms. Cheung's movie "The Heroic Trio." One scene that really aggravated me is when some French dude calls Maggie's frequent Hong Kong costar "Jack Chan." (Well, at least the subtitles say that.) It's been quite a while since I've seen the movie, so I might have to sit through it again to see if my impression of it is different.