''Irma Vep'' is a low-budget independent French movie with an Asian star about... shooting a low-budget independent French movie with an Asian star.

The story is about a contemporary attempt by a [[TrueArtIsAngsty washed-out French director]] (played by former Nouvelle Vague actor Creator/JeanPierreLeaud) to shoot a remake of ''Les Vampires'', a 1915 silent film serial by Louis Feuillade, depicting the adventures of a gang of thieves led by a FemmeFatale who went by the name of Irma Vep (anagram of Vampire). The movie is being made on a shoestring, the crew are a squabbling bunch and nothing goes right. In the middle of it all arrives the Asian star chosen for the lead role, Creator/MaggieCheung--played by Maggie Cheung.

Maggie doesn't speak French and is quite surprised by the lack of organization, in stark contrast with the no-nonsense professionalism she's accustomed to from the Hong Kong movie scene. She nonetheless tries her best to follow the director's obscure instructions, and things begin to fall into place. Her part requires her to dress up in a [[SpyCatsuit fetish rubber bodysuit]] with built-in corset, which she develops a certain fascination for, and at one point puts it on to become a real-life cat burglar for a night.

However, just as it seemed that the movie could be finished in spite of everything, the director has a nervous breakdown and is replaced by another one, whose first decision is to remove Maggie Cheung from the cast. All that's left of the first director's work is [[TrueArtIsIncomprehensible a surrealistic montage of scratched rushes]].

A real-life development that took place during the shooting of ''Irma Vep'' is that its director Olivier Assayas and Maggie Cheung started dating and got married soon afterwards. They later got divorced but have on another occasion worked together again on ''Film/{{Clean}}''.

!!''Irma Vep'' contains examples of:

* AsHerself: Maggie Cheung.
* BiTheWay: Zoe the costume girl develops a crush on Maggie Cheung. According to Mireille, she likes girls and boys.
* ClassyCatBurglar: Irma Vep herself, but also Maggie Cheung when she gets in character and turns into one for a night.
* CreatorBreakdown: [[invoked]] The in-story director has one, in true independent filmmaker fashion.
%%* EverybodySmokes
* LeFilmArtistique: Squared, since ''Irma Vep'' is a self-aware Film Artistique ''about'' the making of a Film Artistique. On the other hand, the original serial ''Les Vampires'' ''wasn't'' a Film Artistique, but a pulp fiction-esque piece of popular entertainment.
* TheMuse: Maggie Cheung to the in-story director, as well as the real-life director.
* OfCorsetsSexy: The aforementioned bodysuit features a built-in corset.
* ShoutOut: The director in the movie says he was inspired to cast Maggie Cheung after seeing her in ''Film/{{Heroic Trio}}''.
* ShowWithinAShow: The movie within the movie.
* SignificantAnagram: Irma Vep = Vampire.
* SpyCatsuit: The latex catsuit worn by Irma Vep.
* TakeThat: The movie takes a side shot at film critics who disparage art-house French cinema.
* TrueArtIsIncomprehensible: In-universe. Nobody but the in-story director understands the point of the movie being made.