Irma Vep

Irma Vep ★★★★★

Taps into the various death-of-cinema pronouncements surrounding the medium’s centenary, and ponders the state of French cinema in particular, as highlighted by the smart casting of Jean-Pierre Léaud. The once-great (or maybe just promising) director Vidal has run out of ideas — his motivation for remaking Les Vampires is literally superficial, extending only to the latex catsuit he envisions clinging to Maggie Cheung as it had to Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman; besides, as an obnoxious critic informs Cheung, his work was always elitist anyway. (The Batman references get at cinema’s hypercommodifcation, though perhaps equally important is the Terminator 2 t-shirt worn by one of the production assistants at the film’s opening, signalling the coming digital revolution/apocalypse.) Assayas indulges a lot of moaning about the state of cinema without passing judgement or getting too solemn about it. This is, after all, a slyly funny film in which everything said is subject to doubt, and even if its characters worry that cinema has expired, or at least come to an impasse, any film as lively and stimulating as Irma Vep shows that not to be the case.

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