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The Cinema Sight Film Club #9: Discussion

Now that you've (hopefully) had a chance to watch Irma Vep, please join us in discussing this film by posting your comments below.

And don't forget, participants, you need to make your selections today for the future. You can send it by e-mail or PM on UAADB.

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  1. Cheung is marvelous and immediately the thing I most treasure from the film. I see both Tripp and Peter see different things in the film and I can agree with both. It’s both an admonition of and celebration of the French New Wave. It takes so many intimate cues from the period that it is as if it had been made 30 years earlier. As much as he may dislike the New Wave, his film also criticizes the more populist movements in French cinema at the time he released (like Amelie). The blend of the surreal and the real is particularly evident in films by Jean Pierre Jeunet.

    The film itself is a bit heavy handed in my opionion. I felt Assayas may have been trying too hard. That whole lesbian subplot seems completely unnecessary and while it made for a very fun dinner party scene, it just felt out of place. Again, like both the French New Wave and the modern French surrealist films.

  2. Yes, Maggie Cheung is fantastic playing an actress named Maggie Cheung, but the character is an idealized version of the actress whom the director (who would later marry) then only knew from her films. Assayas wrote it in nine days and filmed it in less than thirty.

    The film is meant to be a send-up of the pretensions of the French New Wave which Assayas, a critic before he was a director, abhored. Yet the film it most resembles is Truffaut’s Day for Night. It even co-stars Trufaut’s on-screen alter ego, Jean-Pierre Leaud as a send-up of Jean-Luc Godard. The film he is making is meant to be dreadful and it is. The 1915 classic, The Vampires, which the characters are remaking was a actually 399 minute long, ten episode serial.

    It’s good, but an even better Assayas/Cheung collaboration is Clean which they made three years after their 2001 divorce, for which Cheung won the Best Actress award at Cannes.

  3. So, since I picked Irma Vep, I will start things out here. This has been sitting on my Netflix Queue for quite a while; Assayas’ Summer Hours and Carlos were each my favorite film of their respective years, and I wanted to go back and catch his earlier work. This was merely my excuse to finally watch it, and I loved it.
    What strikes me most about this film is not only its blazing satire on the film scene in the 1990s (and as someone who has no time for the likes of Jeunet and Bresson, this seems particularly perfect to me), but the way that Assayas plays with our sense of reality on film. Between Maggie Cheung playing herself (and isn’t she fantastic in this?) and then her own character bleeding into her real life (with that exquisite cat burgler scene), Assayas seems to be reminding us that all film is artifice, and that the truths in cinema are in the emotions and situations (something that the films he satirizes so lack). That cat burglary scene is so much greater than even most of the great Hong Kong films that it parodies because Maggie Cheung is a real person and the stakes are so much higher emotionally.
    What did everyone else think?


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