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In the tradition of films about filmmaking, Irma Vep takes its own special place among such films as Fellini's 8. A has-been director decides to remake the silent French serial film Les Vampires starring a Hong Kong action film superstar. The production is falling behind schedule and its star, Maggie Cheung (who plays herself), finds herself an outsider with the film's crew save for a woman costumer (Nathalie Richard) who has a crush on her. Rene the director (Jean-Pierre Leaud) cast Maggie after viewing one of her many martial-arts fantasy films. Although he finds her perfect for the part of the jewel thief in Les Vampires, the rest of the crew cannot see the reasons for casting Maggie beyond her beauty and how she looks in her tight-fitting latex costume. Rene's vision is soon lost on everyone and he suffers a mental breakdown. The film is reassigned to Jose (Lou Castel), a seemingly more commanding director (although he takes the job because his welfare is about to run out), whose first decision is to fire Maggie. Irma Vep is presented as a comedy, but at its heart lies an examination of the art and craft of filmmaking. In a clever turn, Maggie creeps around her hotel getting into character, in essence remaking Irma Vep for real-life director Olivier Assayas. Assayas wrote the film in 10 days and shot the film in a month after meeting Maggie Cheung at a film festival--a fascinating case of life imitating art... or is it the other way around?

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SPECIAL FEATURES - 16:9 Anamorphic transfer, available for the first time in North America - Audio commentary: a discussion with director Olivier Assayas and critic Jean-Michel Frodon - 30 minutes of never before seen on-set footage, plus an additional audio essay by Assayas and Frodon - "Man Yuk: A Portrait of Maggie Cheung" (1997), a short film by Assayas - Black-and-white rushes of Cheung as Irma Vep on Parisian rooftops - Original French theatrical trailer - Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired - 16-page booklet with essays on Maggie Cheung and Les Vampires director Louis Feuillade by Assayas, and a new appreciation by critic Kent Jones

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ZGT1109 Irma Vep DVD (1996/Maggie Cheung) $26.99