Daily Archives: August 8, 1997

Irma Vep

Irma Vep

Olivier Assayas wrote and directed this dark, brittle French comedy (1996), most of it in English, about a film company shooting a remake of Louis Feuillade’s silent Les vampires. An unexpected masterpiece, Irma Vep was assembled so quickly that it has an improvisational feel and a surrealist capacity to access its own unconscious–two sterling traits it shares with Feuillade’s 1916 serial. A once-prestigious French director of the 60s (Jean-Pierre Leaud) casts a Hong Kong star (Maggie Cheung) in the role of head villainess Irma Vep (an anagram for “vampire”), and his sexual infatuation with the actress is matched by that of the costume designer who escorts her around Paris (Jacques Rivette regular Nathalie Richard). The feverish pace of the shooting seems to unleash everybody’s bad vibes as well as their desire, and Assayas follows the delirium as if he were at the center of a hurricane. What emerges is not only a memorable look at contemporary life in general (and international low-budget filmmaking in particular), but also a mysterious set of notations on how Feuillade’s hallucinatory masterwork might be translated into modern terms. An absolute must-see; with Lou Castel and Bulle Ogier. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Tuesday, August 12, 6:00 and 8:00, 312-443-3737.… Read more »

Flaming Creatures

Flaming Creatures

Forget everything you might have heard about the late Jack Smith’s legendary bisexual, orgiastic, superlow-budget, experimental 1963 masterpiece–a lot more is going on here, artistically and otherwise, than either Jonas Mekas or Susan Sontag has ever suggested. This jubilant, celebratory 45-minute film holds up amazingly well; despite its notoriety and censorship during the 60s, it’s more than just an orgy of nude and seminude bodies–male, female, and transvestite. The camera and even the cheap, hothouse decor participate in the joyful free-for-all, suggesting both the privacy of a Josef von Sternberg wet dream and the collective force of a delirious apocalypse. But the simplest way to describe it is to call it a vision. Theatre Building, 1225 W. Belmont, Thursday, August 14, 6:00, 773-327-5252. –Jonathan Rosenbaum… Read more »