Irma Vep: Maggie Cheung in a Skin-Tight Black Leather Catsuit

10/08/2010 3:48 PM |


Tomorrow, BAM’s complete Olivier Assayas series (!!!) opens with his marvelous Summer Hours. It continues on Sunday with Irma Vep.

Olivier Assayas likes to ping-pong between high-nicotine grunge and family tapestries, with erratic results, but his trippily unique Irma Vep (1996) remains a perfect, hilarious, hand-held torrent of rock-n-roll movie-ness, satirizing the chaotic life of “art film” production even as it embodies it, with Maggie Cheung as herself, wading into a post-post-nouvelle vague landscape where classical cinephilia is openly sixty-nining with The New. Jean-Pierre Leaud plays an unstable Godard figure looking to remake Feuillade’s age-old serial without sound and in black-&-white, casting a bewildered Cheung as France’s iconic arch-villainess Vep after only seeing her in the chintzy Hong Kong actioner The Heroic Trio. (He’s bedazzled, but she meekly objects: “That’s not me, that’s a stuntperson.”) Eventually he’s replaced by Leo Castel’s meta-Chabrol, and throughout the Paris-as-mysterious-playground spirit of Feuillade clashes with hyperreal improv film-set entropy. Escaping one nutso film arena for another, Cheung is a blessing, and her midnight stalk through the hotel corridors and across the rooftops dressed in the titular arch-villainess’s skintight black leather is pure movie love.