Directed by Olivier Assayas • 1996 • France
Starring Maggie Cheung, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Nathalie Richard
Olivier Assayas’s live-wire international breakthrough stars a magnetic Maggie Cheung as a version of herself: a Hong Kong action movie star who arrives in Paris to play the latex-clad lead in a remake of Louis Feuillade’s classic 1915 crime serial LES VAMPIRES. What she finds is a behind-the-scenes tangle of barely controlled chaos as egos clash, romantic attractions simmer, and an obsessive director (a cannily cast Jean-Pierre Léaud) drives himself to the brink to realize his vision. Blending blasts of silent cinema, martial arts flicks, and the music of Sonic Youth and Ali Farka Touré into a hallucinatory swirl of postmodern cool, Assayas composes a witty reflection on the nineties French film industry and the eternal tension between art and commercial entertainment.
In the following interview, recorded in 2003, director Olivier Assayas and critic Charles Tesson discuss their love of Asian cinema, their visit to Hong Kong in 1984, and how Maggie Cheung came to star in IRMA VEP.
LES VAMPIRES, a ten-part 1915–16 film serial by Louis Feuillade, follows a gang of jewel thieves known as the Vampires; their criminal rival, Moreno; the journalist on their tails, Philippe; and Philippe’s sidekick, Mazamette. The following fifty-eight-minute episode, “Hypnotic Eyes,” was sixth i...
This 2013 documentary by Patrick Cazals features family and friends of Musidora, as well as scholars, looking back on the life of the actor, musical-hall performer, and pioneering filmmaker, who originated the role of Irma Vep in Louis Feuillade's serial LES VAMPIRES.