Irma Vep (France, 1996)

Directed by: Olivier Assayas. Final bit of “prep” for my trip to Europe, even though I wasn’t going to France, but anyway. I saw the cover, I saw Olivier Assayas, who I generally like, although some more than others. But generally, I liked the idea of a weird, meta, cross-over, film about film, film about stardom, with maybe some crime overtones? It turns out to be not much crime overtones, and maybe it’s the meta-film-about-film stuff, but this felt like a Michael Winterbottom film in some ways, although way more in tune with sexuality than any Winterbottom film. So maybe that’s the French influence? Because—boy!—is Assayas ever a sexual filmmaker! My first encounter with him was years ago and Boarding Gate, which is a sleek, adult, crime/spy type movie about betrayal, where the leading lady spends 90% of the movie in her underwear and high heels, pointing a gun at people. And then, with Carlos, less screen time, but you definitely get to bask in a few Magic Mike moments with Edgar Ramirez. And then there’s this movie, which as far as I can tell, started with Assayas watching that classic French silent film in the 20’s about a cat burglar who is basically wearing explicit S&M gear, and his mind drifts off, and he dreams up an excuse to get a contemporary beautiful actress to wear a similar getup, and then he thinks of the amazing Maggie Cheung, and then he smartly decides to make it a meta-movie about some other, fictional director who decides to make up a movie to get Maggie Cheung into a latex bodysuit, and have all the characters talking about the latex bodysuit, so it’s not like he, Olivier Assayas, is the one doing all this, so he’s covered a bit? That’s how I imagine it came about anyway. And I suppose, to be fair, this isn’t a degrading, exploitive, sex movie or anything, it’s actually a movie about characters, and conflicts, etc, although for the most part it’s a movie about the French film industry, which itself is a bit of a jerk-off—and how meta is that? But overall, I’m grateful to this film for introducing me to this song, which, although annoying, came to hypnotically win me over.

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