50 Years of the New York Film Festival

NYFF ‘96: Irma Vep

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NYFF ‘96: Irma Vep
Olivier Assayas, 1996
France | Format: 35mm | 99 minutes

Screening will be introduced by filmmaker, critic and former NYFF selection committee member Kent Jones, editor of the newly published collection Olivier Assayas!

Arguably the most innovative and influential French director of his generation, Olivier Assayas (Summer Hours, Carlos) made his first NYFF appearance with this wildly inventive valentine to movies and moviemaking, featuring Hong Kong superstar Maggie Cheung as... a Hong Kong superstar named Maggie Cheung. Cast as the eponymous, latex-clad cat burglar in a modern-day French remake of Louis Feuillade’s classic silent serial Les Vampires, Cheung finds herself at the center of an artistic maelstrom overseen by an unstable, aging New Wave director (Godard and Truffaut alter-ego Jean-Pierre Léaud), acting in a language she doesn’t understand, and fending off the amorous advances of her costume designer (Nathalie Richard). A latter-day Day for Night that emphasizes the chaotic realities and strange, circus-like atmosphere of filmmaking over the romantic allure, Irma Vep is one of the great movies about what happens before “action” and after “cut.”

"A dark and mysterious comedy about the intrigues around a movie set, as well as a droll meditation on the state of world cinema today." —NYFF34 program note

"In Irma Vep, shot in 16mm on a tiny budget, Assayas affirms that for viewers and filmmakers alike, movies are still worth believing in—that the very lunacy of trusting in their significance is just as brave and extravagant an act as actually going out and making one yourself." —Stephanie Zacharek, Salon.com

“For a moment, the movie turns wildly beautiful and savage in Feuillade’s style. When we return to the workaday world of squabbling actors and technicians, we feel the decline from magic to realism. In the end, Assayas both deconstructs illusion and creates it all over again. Irma Vep may be a bitter lament over a dead art form, but the movie itself is an extraordinary sign of life.”
--David Denby, New York

Images courtesy of DACIA FILMS / THE KOBAL COLLECTION

Series: 50 Years of the New York Film Festival

Venue: Walter Reade Theater

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