Hong Kong-based actress/action star Maggie Cheung takes on a challenging project, traveling to Paris to play elusive master thief Irma Vep in a remake of Louis Feuillade’s silent French classic “Les Vampires.” Maggie is the consummate pro and keeps her cool, even among harried French colleagues who are not always warm and welcoming. Also, she doesn’t speak French. But she’s heard of French New Wave director Rene Vidal (Leaud) who has seen better days and craves a comeback. Maggie struggles to make sense of his vision for the film as Vidal speaks elliptically, with a heavy accent. Production designer Zoe (Richard) adopts Maggie for the duration, and finds herself attracted to this tall, poised, kind beauty. Meanwhile, the shoot progresses, but is it working? Is Rene getting what he wants? Will it all come together in the end?
Evoking shades of Truffaut’s “Day for Night,” movie fans in particular will treasure this sly satire about the madness of actually making movies, a process chronically fraught with chaos and tension, but also excitement and fantasy. The smart, sleek Cheung looks amazing in her skintight costume, bringing Irma to glorious life. Leaud is perfect for Vidal, a character presumably based on his old mentor, Jean-Luc Godard. While Rene’s pretentious language often borders on the comical, we also feel his torment at losing his muse. Assayas gives his film a loose, natural, improvisational feel, and lo and behold, it all comes together. A fun, fresh take on the business of movies and of life, let yourself be seduced by the vampy “Irma Vep.”