99. “Irma Vep,” Olivier Assayas (1996)


Part of the 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen List.

Irma Vep

Irma Vep

dir. Olivier Assayas (1996) scr. Olivier Assayas cin. Eric Gautier with Maggie Cheung, Jean-Pierre Leaud, Nathalie Richard, Antoine Basler

In 100 words: Oscillating between cerebral and esoteric, Assayas’s engrossing and frisky metatextual film about filmmaking has plenty of jokes about the cinema and the people who make it. Its characters argue passionately about what exactly is ruining the state of current cinema, whether it’s intellectualism, the money-grubbiness of American movies, or the lack of inventiveness from new directors. But if the film sounds like an excruciating exercise in self-criticism, fear not. It’s full of hilariously neurotic backstage personalities that are all trying to survive, while Maggie Cheung, in a black latex bodysuit, is just trying to stay above it all. Bracing end.

Other Movies for Context: Sad to say that this is my first and only experience with Assayas’s work. I see frequent comparisons to Francois Truffaut’s Day for Night (1973), which I also haven’t seen. When I listen to these people have very ,casual and intellectual conversations, I think instantly of Mia Hansen-Love’s Things to Come (2016), which may not be as frisky or as playful as Irma but still engages you to think just as much.