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- Year: 1997
- Film Format: 35mm
- Origin: France
- Runtime: 96 mins
- Language: English and French
- Subtitles: English
Hong Kong action diva Maggie Cheung (Ashes of Time Redux, In the Mood for Love) plays herself in haute auteur Olivier Assayas’ spiky satire of the French film industry. After seeing her in Johnny To’s cult-actioner 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 and clad in a head-to-toe rubber catsuit, Cheung finds herself adrift among the disorganized crew—including an increasingly erratic Vidal, a lovesick bi-sexual costumer (Nathalie Richard) and a gossipy executive’s wife (Bulle Ogier). With freewheeling cinematography choreographed to the strains of Sonic Youth and Luna, Irma Vep immerses the viewer into the heady desperation and l’amour fou of modern movie-making.
One of the most exciting new directors to have made his mark in the '90s, Olivier Assayas is at the forefront of a French film scene revitalized by the films of young directors like Leos Carax (THE LOVERS OF THE PONT NEUF), Arnaud Desplechin (MY SEX LIFE...OR HOW I GOT INTO AN ARGUMENT) and Claire Denis (NENETTE ET BONI), as well as the continually invigorating work of elder statesmen like Andre Techiné, Jacques Rivette, Philippe Garrel and Maurice Pialat.
Born in Paris in 1955, the son of a respected screenwriter who made his name in the pre-Nouvelle Vague era, Assayas grew up around film studios and always wanted to be a filmmaker, but he opted to study literature and painting instead of film. He made his first short film in 1979, but from 1980-1985 became an editor and prominent contibutor to Cahiers du Cinema for whom he produced two seminal issues: 'Made in USA' (1982) and 'Made in Hong Kong' (1984). He began screenwriting in 1985 and collaborated with André Téchiné on the scripts for Téchiné's RENDEZVOUS (1985) and SCENE OF THE CRIME (1986). And in 1986 he directed his first feature, DESORDRE, which won the Critics Prize at the Venice Film Festival.
Assayas came to the attention of American filmgoers when his third film PARIS S'EVEILLE (1991) was screened at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York in their ground-breaking 1992 touring series of new French cinema. His next film UNE NOUVELLE VIE (1993) was featured in that series in 1994 and later that year L'EAU FROIDE (1994), a semi-autobiographical film made for the celebrated 'All the Boys and Girls in Their Time' series, was selected for the New York Film Festival. In 1996 Assayas was honored with a retrospective of his films at Lincoln Center and at the Vienna Film Festival. IRMA VEP, his first film to be commercially released in the U.S., debuted at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival and screened at festivals in Toronto, London, Vienna, Rotterdam and many other cities. It also became his second feature to be selected for the New York Film Festival.
In 1997 Assayas shot a documentary on the great Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien which premiered in September at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals, and in 1998, LATE AUGUST, EARLY SEPTEMBER debuted in the Toronto, Sam Sebastian and New York Film Festivals.
LES DESTINÉS SENTIMENTALES, (released in the USA as LES DESTINEES) starring Emmanuelle Béart, Charles Berling and Isabelle Huppert, premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2000. DEMONLOVER, starring Connie Nielsen, Charles Berling, Chloe Sevigny and Gina Gershon, premiered at Cannes 2002.
CLEAN premiered in competition at Cannes in May 2004 and its star, Maggie Cheung won Best Actress at the festival. Olivier Assayas is also the co-author, with Stig Bjorkman, of the book Conversations with Ingmar Bergman (1990).
His most recent film is CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA (2014).
of a film by Olivier Assayas
Maggie Cheung Maggie
Jean-Pierre Léaud René Vidal
Nathalie Richard Zoé
Bulle Ogier Mireille
Lou Castel Jose Murano
Arsinee Khanjian American Woman
Antoine Basler Journalist
Nathalie Boutefeu Laure
Alex Descas Desormeaux
Dominique Faysse Maité
Bernard Nissile Markus
Olivier Torres Ferdinand/Moreno
Cinematography Eric Gautier
Sound Philippe Richard
Editor Luc Barnier
Production Designer Francoise-Renaud Labarthe
Costumes Francoise Clavel and Jessica Doyle
Executive Producer Françoise Guglielmi
Producer Georges Benayoun
Written and Directed by Olivier Assayas
“Fresh and hilarious... a delirious comedy of boisterous French manners.” – Ella Taylor, The Atlantic Monthly
“A flash of cinematic brilliance... one of the most playful French movies in years.” – Thelma Adams, The New York Post
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