Irma Vep is a 16mm movie about making a movie, like its cumbersome predecessors, 8½. of Fellini and La nuit américaine by Truffaut.
But against the above mentioned movies, it is self-sufficient simple, exploding the script in few main outlines.
Irma Vep should be considered a little jewel and a truth film about cinema.
A disorientated Hong Kong actress (Maggie Cheung), recruited to play the main role in a new edition of a 20's Louis Feuillade's mute film, faces the chaos of a French film production and becomes not long after, due to her grace and her attitude to compare herself with others, the hinge around are explored the inmost and close relationships between the prime actress and the film director, an eccentric costumier and the whole film cast.
The director, René Vidal, is played by Jean-Pierre Léaud, Truffaut's leading star, as an explicit reference to Nouvelle Vague.
Irma Vep is also a token excursion into cinema that starts with the pioneeristic and evocative mute movies; it looks at the the emerging Asiatic scenario as new source of inspiration for the west school; it quotes affectionately the outmoded social inspired movies; it settles accounts with the special effects and the muscle structure of American new style of making films, against the serious and intellectual French one, toughly in search of new evolutions; it ends with an unexpected brainwave film solution, like an homage to the experimental cinema, a ransom for the poor Vidal and perhaps a possible way of innovation for the French old-style art of cinema.
Sonic Youth's music is the sound-track for the topic upsetting scene in which Maggie transforms herself into a Vampire.