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 do.  out of  

Gary W. Tooze

Posters

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

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DVD Review: Panorama Region 0 - NTSC

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Thinking of buying from YesAsia? CLICK HERE and use THIS UPDATED BEAVER PAGE to source their very best...

Although we have also reviewed the Fox Lorber edition HERE, we strongly suspect that the 2Good edition from France is the best transfer of the film to DVD, but it has no English subtitles, although some of the dialogue is in English.

Distribution Panorama  Region 0 - NTSC
Runtime 1:38:33 
Video 1.56:1.00 Letterboxed WideScreen
Average Bitrate: 5.35 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
Bitrate:

Audio French and English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo) 
Subtitles English and Traditional Chinese (non-removable)
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Panorama

Aspect Ratio:

Widescreen letterbox - 1.56:1

Edition Details:
• none

DVD Release Date: Oct 14th, 2003
Keep Case
Chapters: 1

Comments:

I suppose it would be easier documenting what is right about this DVD. There is nothing right about it. Horrible, cloudy, pasty transfer with burned in dual subtitles and crappy audio. No menu, 1 chapter stop. We only posted this review to warn you to avoid this DVD at all costs. I don't have a 'zero' out of five graphic so I'll just tell you: zero out of five.

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

 

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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Thinking of buying from YesAsia? CLICK HERE and use THIS UPDATED BEAVER PAGE to source their very best...

Although we have also reviewed the Fox Lorber edition HERE, we strongly suspect that the 2Good edition from France is the best transfer of the film to DVD, but it has no English subtitles, although some of the dialogue is in English.

 




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Gary Tooze

Mississauga, Ontario,

   CANADA

Many Thanks...

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