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Irma Vep (Essential Edition) (2008)

Maggie Cheung , Jean-Pierre Leaud , Olivier Assayas  |  Unrated |  DVD
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Maggie Cheung, Jean-Pierre Leaud, Nathalie Richard, Bulle Ogier, Lou Castel
  • Directors: Olivier Assayas
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Color, NTSC, Original recording remastered, Special Edition, Widescreen
  • Language: English, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Zeitgeist Films
  • DVD Release Date: December 9, 2008
  • Run Time: 96 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001G0LC1E
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,027 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Irma Vep (Essential Edition)" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Hong Kong action diva Maggie Cheung (Ashes of Time Redux, In the Mood for Love) plays herself in Olivier Assayas' spiky satire of the French film industry. After seeing her in Johnny To's Heroic Trio, past-his-prime director René Vidal (New Wave legend Jean-Pierre Léaud) impetuously casts Cheung as the lead in his remake of the silent classic Les Vampires. Unable to speak a word of French, Cheung tries to navigate the disorganized production while clad in a head-to-toe rubber catsuit and receiving cryptic direction from Vidal. Things only get crazier as she juggles a lovesick bisexual costumer (Nathalie Richard), a gossipy executive's wife (Bulle Ogier) and the whole backbiting crew. With freewheeling shots choreographed to the strains of Sonic Youth and Luna, Irma Vep immerses the viewer into the heady desperation and l'amour fou of modern moviemaking. Zeitgeist Films celebrates its 20th Anniversary with a sparkling new DVD release of this supercool comic gem.

- 16:9 Anamorphic transfer, available for the first time in North America
- Audio commentary: a discussion with director Olivier Assayas and critic Jean-Michel Frodon
- 30 minutes of never before seen on-set footage, plus an additional audio essay by Assayas and Frodon
- "Man Yuk: A Portrait of Maggie Cheung" (1997), a short film by Assayas
- Black-and-white rushes of Cheung as Irma Vep on Parisian rooftops
- Original French theatrical trailer
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired
- 16-page booklet with essays on Maggie Cheung and Les Vampires director Louis Feuillade by Assayas, and a new appreciation by critic Kent Jones


"Four Stars! Cheung, slinking around the corridors of her hotel in her sheath of shiny black latex to the dissonant chords of Sonic Youth, is an instant icon of everything cool." --Ken Fox, TV Guide

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Misunderstood Film October 17, 2004
Irma Vep elicits two reactions from different groups of people: nay sayers who view it as yet another boring French film and people who focus on the film-about-a-film. I think it is seriously misleading to view the film in either of these lights. Irma Vep should be viewed as a series of short films, tied together by the "plot" of the film. Each mini-plot is fascinating and together make the film wonderful.

If you don't know, Irma Vep is a movie about a Hong Kong action star (Maggie cheung) who arrives in Paris to do a remake of a 1915 French film about the French underworld. The director is losing his emotional stability and eventually the crew unravels. A lot has been said about the "film within the film" aspect of the movie, so I won't say more. What I think is fascinating is how the director tells a number of stories within this strange plot:

- The crash and burn of a film crew

- Zoe, the costume designer who is attracted to Maggie and she is rejected

- Maggie's desire to indulge in her criminal fantasies

- the director's strangely engaging mini-film

Since all this takes place in the middle of chaos, it can be hard to appreciate at first. There is really no beginning or end of the film. It is abrupt, which I think must reflect the experience of someone who arrives in the middle of turmoil. But each mini-plot is lovingly filmed and well acted. It also helps a great deal that Maggie Cheung is an attractive actress who can really carry well while wearing a latex suit the director insists she wear. The rest of the cast puts in a great performance as well, which allows you to engage with the other characters.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a movie buff's film, and truly multicultural December 8, 1999
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
This movie has a casual, tossed-off feel, (it's rather different than Assayas' other pictures, which are hard to see in the U.S.) It's slyly funny about Parisians and their various neuroses and obsessions. Maggie Cheung is charming and, though she doesn't say much, she projects intelligence and good-natured resourcefulness. I disagree with the comments that this is a racist movie; rather it is about how the world is getting smaller and more multicultural. Worth a look for it's picture of contemporary filmmaking.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
What the world needs is a movie about producing a book. You know, the creative angst of the author as he tries to remember when to use "which" and when to use "that," the nasty arguments over choosing a typeface, the dust jacket tantrums about artistic integrity if both boobs are shown or just one, the cattiness of the editors and, perhaps most insightful, whether the proofreading will continue to be the night guard's responsibility during his dinner break or whether the delivery boy from the next door deli should be given a crack at it.

Until that movie is made, Irma Vep will have to do. Please note that elements of the plot are discussed but there are absolutely no spoilers here or in the movie. Irma Vep is a movie about making a movie and it's stuffed with angst, pettiness, tantrums, ego and confusion. Taken on one of its own terms -- is it any good just as a movie -- the answer in my opinion is a loud "yes." Forget all the inside cineaste stuff (it is French, after all) and you may find that Irma Vep is funny, not just clever. It's good-natured with a friendly performance by Hong Kong kung fu heroine Maggie Cheung playing herself. Most of all, it is so eccentric a movie I seldom could stop smiling.

Rene Vidal (Jean-Pierre Leaud), an aging New Wave director now well past his sell-by date, is planning a comeback. He'll re-make a long, long and long ago silent movie called Les Vampires, a movie about a gang of criminals who prowl and stalk. One of them, in a skin-tight black body suit and black mask, is named Irma Vep. She will be Vidal's inspiration. He has just the star in mind to play Irma...Maggie Cheung. Maggie, who doesn't speak French, shows up in Paris ready to work. Cast and crew snipe and argue in many mini-dramas. Vidal collapses.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This film is a film lover's film. It uses documentary style filmmaking to narate it's slice of life relism, alongside the imaginative and transportative storymaking that gives this film many dimensions to explore, this is the most refreshing and modern foreign film you will see this year.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing ending to a very cute film September 24, 1999
By A Customer
I recently discussed this film with my dad, whom I'd recommended it to very highly. He told me he found it so boring he'd turned it off halfway through. I suppose I can understand the sentiment, although I think Maggie is adorable throughout and, even though he's really decrepit and his English is almost unintelligible, I would watch Jean-Pierre Leaud read the yellow pages for two hours. But I told my father: YOU MUST RENT IT AGAIN AND WATCH THE ENDING. It literally took my breath away and it redefines Leaud's character in a heartbreaking way.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Well, are we all sitty comfybold on our bottys? Then I'll begin.
Olivier Assayas is such a great director with such an astonishing body of work, that as good as Irma Vep is, it is not one of his best films.
It is good enough that you really should buy it, if you have not already. However, beyond that, in my typical whiny, frustration-driven way, I am going to spend the balance of this essay on things you (we) cannot yet buy in the hopes that one of the smaller and more rational DVD companies will rectify this. None of the following are even on video in France, at least based on the website.
Une Nouvelle Vie is a brilliant character study. This film reconfirmed to me to the great and subtle talent of Judith Godreche, who has never let me down since. (Of course, I did not see the DiCaprio foolishness she was in because that would have broken the No-DiCaprios Allowed rule.) Ms. Godreche plays a complex and multi-layered character faced with a deepening mystery as she tries to find a father she has never known and is stalled by her half-sister and her father's lawyer who is apparently friendly, but clearly has some agenda of his own. The use of the camera is simply staggering. The camera circles the protagonists, alternating their points of view as the psychological games proceed. This same effect was so very irritating in Branagh's Frankenstein because there it served no purpose.
L'Eau Froide is a 60's period piece which introduced me to the work of Virginie Ledoyen. A simply plotted story of disaffected youth, which in less talented hands would have been cliched, is confidently and masterfully turned into something much more.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite all-time movies
One of my favorite all-time movies. It certainly has a different feel to it from an American movie, but if you're willing to step outside the Hollywood coma of overstimulation,... Read more
Published 20 days ago by samspennell
1.0 out of 5 stars Pretty Bad
One of the worst films i've ever seen. I was forced to watch this for a college film class.... very bad
Published 8 months ago by Ryan
5.0 out of 5 stars Stylized Discontent: Film Noir, Breathless, Diva, Blue Velvet and Irma...
*In film noir the source of discontent is the tedious/repetitiveness of modern life, and the most tedious task we modern characters are forced to perform is the reproduction of (an... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Doug Anderson
1.0 out of 5 stars This movie was weird
I didn't like it. Only watched it for film studies class. Wish I could un-do it. Waste of money! Ugh
Published 22 months ago by Kenya
3.0 out of 5 stars A curious little film
Honk if you love French cinema. This is the other side of Truffaut's "Day for Night." A comedic (and confusing) romp through the world of a washed-up French film director... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Stephen Smith
1.0 out of 5 stars Phooey!
I don't understand all the reviews praising this film. It has nothing to recommend it - lousy script especially. A blah film> BLAH!
Published on April 19, 2012 by Philos
4.0 out of 5 stars Assayas' Cult Classic about Filmmaking Exudes a Sympathetic Charm.
"Irma Vep" is a 1996 cult classic about film and filmmaking written and directed by Olivier Assayas. It is a film for film buffs, which is its limitation. Read more
Published on October 28, 2011 by mirasreviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, original, challenging, if not quite a masterpiece
I feel downright churlish for not going completely crazy for this funny/sad look at movie-making -- specifically the rather absurd, doomed remaking of a real French classic, by an... Read more
Published on June 15, 2011 by K. Gordon
3.0 out of 5 stars Maggie Cheung, the muse
Very modern and very French comedy about filmmaking, art and everyone else involved in the process. Maggie Cheung arrives to Paris from Hong Kong in order to create her first... Read more
Published on August 5, 2009 by Reader
3.0 out of 5 stars The last half is great. The first half, not so much.
Irma Vep (Olivier Assayas, 1996)

Assayas' homage to Contempt gets very interesting about an hour into the film, when we find out that Maggie Cheung (playing herself) is... Read more
Published on January 29, 2008 by Robert Beveridge
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