I found Irma Vep confused and empty. Visually it is lazy verging on shoddy, dealing with the process of making a film, but without any point or meaning.

The incessant restlessness of the hand-held camera becomes dulling and the poor focus-puller is always playing catch-up. Partly because of this and partly because of the confusion between filmic art and filmic reality, we can almost never feel the movement of the figures or the fullness of their emotions. Perhaps this is expediency; for the most part the acting is unsure and mannered. Maggie Cheung endures as a worker bee cheerfully lost in the bitter reality of "Art", but Jean-Pierre Leaud isn't given an opportunity fully to display the separated distance of the pre-occupied director.

The script seems extemporised, as if it is merely treading water or giving a whisper of an unseen larger picture. On the whole, I didn't get anything but surface from these crudely differentiated personalities, which, in the final instance, all seemed somehow similar.

The use of music is arbitrary and sometimes bizarre, but rarely works. The director wants a remake that totally excludes the distraction of the musical. Music does occupy an arbitrary space when a film is in production. Some feel it weaves the film into order; others, like Rene in the film, that it should be disregarded.

The editing between dynamic shots was excellent, whereas the flow between scenes was stifled. It appeared that someone was doing a good job and someone else wasn't. But in one respect, that was the crux of the film. A group of people, the company, putting a lot of hard work into one person's idea, with no guarantee that the idea was in fact a good one or that it would even come off. When a film is in production and everyone knows it's a dud, things can easily get nightmarish.

On the whole, I thought the film wasn't that sure about how it should be explaining itself. The style suggested that cinema is the bringing together of isolated people who cannot communicate with each other, whereas the script often veered towards a romantic notion of "the film-making community". I am still wondering whether the "film", put together by the broken director, is meant to be profound or pathetic. There are a few isolated gags which are very funny. But as satire, it fails because it just doesn't hold its subject firmly enough to subvert it.

This leaves a choice: is the film misconceived, miscreated and a very poor example of contemporary French cinema? Or is it a mind-blowingly sophisticated expression of why a bad film is bad in the first place?

Moritz Baumann is a struggling film writer and director. His latest film, 'High Life', was finished last year.

Interview by Nick Taylor.

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