Friday, July 31, 2009

Doing a blog on recent Hong Kong actresses without Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk would be akin to writing a history of 20th century science and leaving out Einstein. It might be OK as far as it goes but there would be something missing. So here is Maggie from two non-Hong Kong movies, both written and directed by Oliver Assayas. The first is "Irma Vep" a movie about making a movie in which Maggie plays a Hong Kong actress named Maggie Cheung who is hired part way through the shooting schedule in order to play the title role. It opens with a scene in a chaotic production office where, among other crises, it is realized that no one was sent to pick her up at the airport.

When she does arrive it is clear that the director of the film (a remake of the classic "Les Vampyres") has lost control of the shoot. Speaking no French, Maggie is integrated as well as can be expected into the flow of the movie, both helped and hindered by the costume designer, a gay woman who has a major crush on her. While Assayas was commenting on the state of the French film industry 1996 he was also obviously showcasing Maggie with loving care--they married sometime after the movie wrapped. This is an exceptionally well made film and one I recommend most highly.

The images below are screencaps I did from the DVD release.

In the first three pictures above Maggie is in character as Irma Vep, jewel thief extraordiniare, clad in her black rubber suit and creeping about the hallways of a Paris hotel looking for victims. In pictures four through seven she is in character as Maggie Cheung, actress preparing to play the character Irma Vep and making the best she can of a production that is slipping out of control.

The other movie is "Clean", a sprawling tale that takes place (and was shot in) Canada, the UK and France. It is missing the dramatic unities and crystalline focus of "Irma Vep"--a lot more happens. Some characters die; some are betrayed by old friends while others take cynical advantage of family loyalties. Unlike "Irma Vep" it has an ending that wraps up the narrative and puts a definite end to this story--it is even upbeat but not cloying. By no means a great movie or even a very good one, there is still an excellent reason to watch "Clean": Maggie Cheung has a tour de force of acting, never over the top, always in control and projecting exactly the right amount of fear, confusion, hope and joy that each scene calls for. Her performance could be a master class in film acting.

The picture at the top of this post is a screencap from "Clean" as are the ones below:

One note: while these pictures might make it look as if the hairdresser was a sworn enemy it actually worked quite well in the movie.


  1. Hopefully, Maggie can be lured back into the limelight someday with a great script that's on par with her acting ability. Speaking of her French films, have you seen Augustin, King of Kung-Fu? I really loved that one.

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