Maggie Cheung, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Nathalie Richard, Antoine Basler,
Olivier Assayas inserts his passion for visual, chaotic Hong Kong action movies into the verbose, yet equally chaotic, landscape of the French art film in this “remake” of the silent French serial Les vampires. Pop-culture icon Maggie Cheung, as both “Irma Vep” and “Maggie Cheung,” tiptoes through the wreckage, her latex-catsuited presence triggering as much anarchy, confusion, and sexual disruption as did her silent equivalent. Where the original serial featured Irma Vep wreaking havoc upon Paris’s alienated ruling elite, Assayas has Irma/Maggie preying on that most alienated of elites, a French film crew, complete with overwrought director (Jean-Pierre Léaud in classic irascible mode), high-strung artists, and bickering hangers-on united by a shared sense of hopelessness, bile, and thwarted lechery. Simultaneously a bemused look at the neuroses of creative French filmmaking and a spellbinding valentine to the giddily surrealist and sensual cinemas Irma and Maggie each represent, Irma Vep creates a filmic identity that’s decidedly jagged, vibrant, and fascinating.
Man Yuk: A Portrait of Maggie Cheung
Olivier Assayas, France, 1997
Olivier Assayas’s silent Super 8mm portrait of Maggie Cheung was made as a commission for the Fondation Cartier.