Irma Vep

When nouvelle vague director René Vidal decides to shoot a remake of Louis Feuillade’s silent serial film Les Vampires, his career is already in decline. For the leading role of Irma Vep, he casts Maggie Cheung, a well-known action star from Hong Kong who doesn’t speak a word of French. On the completely chaotic set, Maggie is squeezed into a tight latex suit modelled on Michelle Pfeiffer’s in Catwoman and finds herself having to contend with intrigues, clashing egos and the advances of costume designer Zoé during the course of the shoot. The director also encounters mounting difficulties – not only in his marriage but also in his artistic self-image. The project falls into increasing jeopardy.
Contrasting mainstream cinema and auteur film, this bizarre satire mixes seemingly irreconcilable genres, styles and artistic approaches, and makes a humorous assessment of contemporary French film, torn as it is between the past and an unsatisfactory present.
by Olivier Assayas
with Maggie Cheung, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Nathalie Richard, Bulle Ogier
France 1996 French, English 96’ Colour & Black/White Rating R12


  • Maggie Cheung (Maggie Cheung)
  • Jean-Pierre Léaud (René Vidal)
  • Nathalie Richard (Zoé)
  • Bulle Ogier (Mireille)


Written and Directed by Olivier Assayas
Cinematography Eric Gautier
Editing Luc Barnier
Sound Philippe Richard
Production Design François-Renaud Labarthe
Costumes Françoise Clavel
Producer Georges Benayoun

Produced by

Dacia Films

Olivier Assayas

Born in Paris, France in 1955, he studied at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts and the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris. He then wrote for “Cahiers du Cinéma”, made several short films and, in 1986, his first feature film, Desordre. In 2011, he was a member of the main competition jury at Cannes. His film Après mai screened in competition at the Venice Film Festival while Clouds of Sils Maria and Personal Shopper were presented at Cannes, where the latter won him the Best Director award.

Filmography (selection)

1986 Désordre (Disorder) 1991 Paris s'éveille (Paris Awakens) 1994 Cold Water 1996 Irma Vep 1999 Fin août, début septembre (Late August, Early September) 2000 Les destinées sentimentales (Sentimental Destinies) 2002 Demonlover 2004 Clean 2005 Noise; Documentary 2007 Boarding Gate 2008 L’heure d’été (Summer Hours) 2012 Après mai (Something in the Air) 2014 Clouds of Sils Maria (Die Wolken von Sils Maria) 2016 Personal Shopper 2018 Doubles vies (Non-Fiction) 2019 Wasp Network

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2020