directed by Olivier Assayas
France 1996

"Cinema is not magic.

It is a technique and a science.

A technique born of science and the service of a will.

The will of the workers to free themselves."

I find it very difficult to put into words the appeal of this film. Maggie Cheung is playing herself as a successful Hong Kong action film star who has been picked by Rene Vidal (Jean-Pierre Leaud), an elderly French director at the tail end of his failing career. He has requested her to play the part of Irma Vep in his remake of Louis Feuillade's 1915 silent 7.5 hour masterpiece, Les Vampires. Dressed erotically in tight latex (not unlike Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns) she cat burgles while skulking around Paris rooftops. This alone is worth watching. Not unlike Feuillade, director Assayas has captured the mystique of Paris and bottled it onscreen. Irma Vep is an enjoyable fictional making-of film which exposes Cheung's magnetic charisma (as if it were possible to restrain). Her allure overtakes the entire screen and as opposed to fighting it, the camera and script seem to succumb to her grace and beauty. This movie is filled with French charm with its sexual indifference, Parisian culture, film-making introspection and her, Maggie Cheung. My personal highlight of the film is when Maggie, alone in her hotel room, gets into character; she dons her latex costume and tip-toes through the hotel corridors, spies a distressed and abandoned lover (played by Atom Egoyan's wife Arsinée Khanjian!), naked in her room and steals some of her jewelry. She then flees to the rooftop and in the rain disposes of her prizes over the edge. Magnificent is all I can say. I do think my admiration and enjoyment of Feuillade's film only exemplified my positive feelings toward Irma Vep. Like conceptual art, this film is unapologetic of its focus and ideals - it has no exclusivity, but either you are open to its charm ... or you are not. "Eccentric" is an apt description... "Supercool" might also fit.  out of  

Gary W. Tooze

Posters

Theatrical Release: September 6th, 1996 - Toronto Film Festival

Reviews    More Reviews    DVD Reviews

DVD Comparison:

Fox/Lorber Region 0 - NTSC vs. Second Sight - Region 2 - PAL vs. Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC

1) Fox/Lorber Region 0 - NTSC LEFT

2) Second Sight - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC RIGHT

 

DVD Box Cover

 

We strongly suspect that this 2Good is the best transfer of the film to DVD, but it has no English subtitles, although much of the dialogue in the film is in English.

Distribution Fox / Lorber  Region 1 - NTSC Second Sight Films Ltd. - Region 2 - PAL Zeitgeist. - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:34:30  1:34:36 (4% speed-up)  1:34:45
Video 1.66:1.00 Letterboxed WideScreen
Average Bitrate: 6.14 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
1.66:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.78 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
1.66:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.72 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
Bitrate:

Fox/Lorber

Bitrate: 

Second Sight

Bitrate: 

Zeitgeist

Audio French and English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)  French and English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)  French and English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo) 
Subtitles English (non-removable for French dialogue) English (non-removable for French dialogue) English (removable but for French dialogue only)
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Fox / Lorber

Aspect Ratio:

Widescreen letterbox - 1.66:1

Edition Details:
• All Regions
• Color, Widescreen, Dolby
• Production notes
• Theatrical trailer (1:19)
• Widescreen letterbox format

DVD Release Date: March 31, 1998
Keep Case
Chapters: 6

Release Information:
Studio: Second Sight

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1

Edition Details:

• Man Yuk (4:54)
• Interview with Maggie Cheung and Nathalie Richard (17:24)
• Interview with Charles Tesson and Olivier Assayas (33:44)
• Trailer (1:20 min) 

DVD Release Date: March 31st, 200
8
Keep Case
Chapters: 16

Release Information:
Studio: Zeitgeist

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1

Edition Details:

• 'Commentary' track (Q+A with Assayas and film critic Jean-Michel Frodon)
• 'On the Set' with optional Audio Essay (29:58)
• Man Yuk (4:54)
• Black and white Rushes (3:52)

• French Trailer (1:20 min) 

DVD Release Date: December 9th, 200
8
Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 16

Comments:

ADDITION: Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC - November 08': I would love to have proclaimed this one of the many candidates for DVD of the Year in our year-end poll. Alas, although it has some bountiful extras features - it is interlaced (see combing) and/or from an unconverted PAL source (see times). It is anamorphic, dual-layered and in the correct aspect ratio of 1.66:1. It has a slim black border on the top of the image... but not on the bottom.

For CRT viewing this Zeitgeist edition should be fine - it resembles the Second Sight transfer but is housed on an NTSC DVD creating all the associated artifacts and liabilities of that incorrect standards practice. I suspect that this was all that Zeitgeist were supplied and although we don't endorse for the image transfer - the extras are significant enough that fans will appreciate. Ohh... the Zeitgeist's subtitles appear to be totally removable but are only translating the French dialogue of the film. They are also not as gargantuan as the PAL edition.

The 'Commentary' track is really a recorded Q+A with Assayas and film critic Jean-Michel Frodon running along side the film. It never discusses specific scenes and is not relevant to the film running simultaneously but it is extremely interesting with Assayas delving into his own personal approach to art and what formed his practices etc. 'On the Set' is about 30 minutes of behind the scenes footage and it includes the option to play with an audio essay. This relates more keen points on Irma Vep and the video footage is pretty cool. Man Yuk, also available on the Second Sight disc, is an artistic homage to Maggie - it is short at less than 5 minutes. Finally we get 4 minutes of black and white rushes from Irma Vep. There is a 16-page liner notes booklet included with 2 essays by Assayas and another by Kent Jones.

This film has a significant enough niche that we can still hope for a superior transfer one day. I appreciate Zeitgeist's efforts at getting this disc out despite my feeling regarding the image. Is it worth the extras alone? I definitely think so. So, from that standpoint it is recommended.   

***

ADDITION: Second Sight - PAL - April 08': Obviously not much of a comparison but I am intrigued and might purchase the French edition because, although, the Second Sight easily bests the old Fox/Lorber (released exactly a decade previous - to the day!), I still feel the image quality is on the weaker end of the scale (I've seen the film enough times to know the French dialogue) - although this may be as good as the available source prints allows. On the positive this UK edition is anamorphic in-and-around the original 1.66:1 ratio. It is also progressive and on a dual-layered disc. Similar to the US edition - the subtitles are non-removable for French dialogue.

There are some nice inclusions as bonus extras. Man Yuk is a kind of weird portrait of Maggie Chung - very much in the vein of the stylistic ending of Irma Vep. There is a 20 minute interview with Maggie Cheung and Nathalie Richard and another with Charles Tesson and Olivier Assayas running over a half-hour (both are English subbed). Finally we have the same trailer available from the F/L.

An easy decision indeed and a viable purchase if you are anywhere near as big a fan of this film as I. There is so much to enjoy about it, as Assayas had the universal tumblers all click into place - something he hasn't seemed to duplicate since.

NOTE: There is a Panorama (region 3) - joke of an edition reviewed HERE.

ON THE FOX/LORBER: This is a standard Fox Lorber release... meaning that it is of very poor quality. The non-anamorphic, single-layered DVD picture exhibits a yellowish/washed out hue at times. It is also hazy throughout and on separate monitors showed pixilation. There is combing visible (non-progressive) and looks to be from a unconverted PAL port. Extras include a short trailer and text screen notes (bio's etc.) To my knowledge this is the only DVD version of this film presently available and it is about the same level as a VHS tape. Come on Region 2 France/UK get this one out with English subtitles. I give the F/L DVD     out of         

Gary W. Tooze


Recommended Reading in French Cinema (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)

The Films in My Life
by Francois Truffaut, Leonard Mayhew

French Cinema: A Student's Guide
by Philip Powrie, Keith Reader
Agnes Varda by Alison Smith Godard on Godard : Critical Writings by Jean-Luc Godard Notes on the Cinematographer by Robert Bresson Robert Bresson (Cinematheque Ontario Monographs, No. 2)
by James Quandt
The Art of Cinema by Jean Cocteau French New Wave
by Jean Douchet, Robert Bonnono, Cedric Anger, Robert Bononno

Check out more in "The Library"


 

DVD Menus

(Fox/Lorber Region 0 - NTSC LEFT vs. Second Sight - Region 2 - PAL RIGHT)

 

 
 

Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC

 


Subtitle Sample

 

1) Fox/Lorber Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Second Sight - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 

 


Screen Captures

.

1) Fox/Lorber Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Second Sight - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 

 


1) Fox/Lorber Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Second Sight - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 


1) Fox/Lorber Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Second Sight - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 

 


1) Fox/Lorber Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Second Sight - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 

 


1) Fox/Lorber Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Second Sight - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 

 

Report Card:

 

Image:

Second Sight

Sound:

-

Extras: Zeitgeist

Menu:

Zeitgeist

 

DVD Box Cover

 

We strongly suspect that this 2Good is the best transfer of the film to DVD, but it has no English subtitles, although much of the dialogue in the film is in English.

Distribution Fox / Lorber  Region 1 - NTSC Second Sight Films Ltd. - Region 2 - PAL Zeitgeist. - Region 1 - NTSC



Hit Counter

 

DONATIONS Keep DVDBeaver alive:

Mail cheques, money orders, cash to:    or CLICK PayPal logo to donate!

Gary Tooze

Many Thanks...

Olivier Assayas' Irmav Vep - Fox - Lorber - Region 0 NTSC Olivier Assayas Irma Vep Magie Cheung DVD Re