Irma Vep
June 21st, 2018

Irma Vep [1996]

Please join Cultivate Cinema Circle and Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center as we celebrate the work of Olivier Assayas. Our second selection is a one-night screening of the brand new restoration of Irma Vep [1996].

  • Screening Date: Thursday, June 21st, 2018 | 7:00pm
  • Venue: Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center
  • Specifications: 1996 / 99 minutes / French & English / Color
  • Director(s): Olivier Assayas
  • Print: Supplied by Janus Films
  • Tickets: $8 general, $6 students & seniors, $5 members

Event Sponsors:

Venue Information:

341 Delaware Ave, Buffalo, NY 14202

TrailerSynopsisDirector BioLinks

Courtesy of San Francisco International Film Festival:

Luminous Hong Kong star Maggie Cheung (as herself) is summoned to Paris by director René Vidal (Jean-Pierre Léaud) to play the lead in an insane undertaking—a silent remake of Louis Feuillade’s 1916 serial Les vampires. And she’s constantly left behind rather than catered to amidst the chaos of warring personalities on the set: the witchy production coordinator (Dominique Faysse), a loud-mouthed TV reporter (Antoine Basler) with an anti-art film bias and the mysteriously and aggressively intrusive Mireille (Bulle Ogier), among others, all of whom flit across the screen like phantoms. Olivier Assayas’s dizzying, poetic and exhilarating microcosm of modern life was written, shot, edited and mixed in record time (five months), and the sense of breathless speed fueled the finished product. Assayas put his constraints to work for him to create a film that is absolutely up-to-the-minute and liberating, a direct, free-form address to its audience. At the center of it all is the human ballast that keeps Irma Vep on course: the confused but tender relationship between Maggie and Zoë (Nathalie Richard, in the film’s standout performance). Irma Vep is very funny, although the laughs tend to catch in your throat because this is no cozy love letter to filmmaking, like Day for Night of Living in Oblivion, as the film’s final tortured, mindbending images demonstrate.

Written by Kent Jones


  • Cannes Film Festival – 1996
  • Toronto International Film Festival – 1996
  • New York Film Festival – 1996

“With Irma Vep, all of a sudden I decided that it was okay to mix genre, to mix cultures, and that movies sometimes could be experiments, that within the format of modern cinema, within the format of narrative, you could experiment by mixing elements.”

Courtesy of Festival Scope:

Olivier Assayas (born January 25, 1955) is a French film director and screenwriter. He made his debut in 1986, after directing some short films and writing for the influential film magazine Cahiers du cinéma. Assayas’s father was French director/screenwriter Jacques Rémy (1910–1981). He started his career in the industry by helping him and ghostwrote episodes for TV shows his father was working on when his health failed. Assayas’s film COLD WATER was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival. His biggest hit to date has been IRMA VEP, starring Hong Kong star Maggie Cheung, which is a tribute both to French director Louis Feuillade and to Hong Kong cinema. While working at Cahiers du cinéma, Assayas wrote lovingly about European film directors he admired but also about Asian directors. One of his latest films is a documentary about Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-Hsien. He married Hong Kong movie actress Maggie Cheung in 1998. They divorced in 2001, but their relationship remained amicable, and in 2004 Cheung made her award-winning movie CLEAN with him. He then married actress-director Mia Hansen-Løve. They met when Hansen-Løve, seventeen at the time, starred in Assayas’s 1998 feature LATE AUGUST, EARLY SEPTEMBER. He directed and co-wrote the acclaimed 2010 French television miniseries CARLOS, about the life of the terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sánchez. The actor Édgar Ramírez won the César Award for Most Promising Actor in 2011 for his performance as Carlos. In April 2011, it was announced that he would be a member of the jury for the main competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. His 2012 film, SOMETHING IN THE AIR, was selected to compete for the Golden Lion at the 69th Venice IFF. Assayas won the Osella for Best Screenplay at Venice. His next two film, CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA (2013) and PERSONAL SHOPPER (2016) both played in the official competition at Cannes.


  • Wasp Network (2019)
  • Non-Fiction (2018)
  • Personal Shopper (2016)
  • Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)
  • Something in the Air (2012)
  • Carlos (2010)
  • Summer Hours (2008)
  • Eldorado (2008)
  • Stockhausen/Preljocaj Dialogue (2007)
  • Boarding Gate (2007)
  • Noise (2006)
  • Paris, je t’aime (2006) (segment “Quartier des Enfants Rouges”)
  • Clean (2004)
  • Demonlover (2002)
  • Les Destinées (2000)
  • Late August, Early September (1998)
  • Irma Vep (1996)
  • Cold Water (1994)
  • A New Life (1993)
  • Paris Awakens (1991)
  • Winter’s Child (1989)
  • Disorder (1986)

Here is a curated selection of links shared on our Facebook page for additional insight/information:

  • 5/17/18 – “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.” Michael Atkinson, The L Magazine – link
  • 6/19/18 – The always articulate Jonathan Rosenbaum on Olivier Assayas and his deconstructed filmmaking masterwork Irma Vep – link
  • 6/21/18 – Karen Wilson on Irma Vep via Reverse Shot: “…in Irma Vep as ‘herself’ Cheung could confront her status as an action heroine, comment critically on her nation’s cinema, and finally, exhibit some serious acting chops.” – link

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